Companies honored for leading economic development

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UTICA — A German semiconductor maker, a homegrown finisher of metal parts, the company behind a rehabbed century-old hotel, a retail distribution warehouse, a new-business incubator and developers of an apartment building intended to help keep working young adults in the region won awards from the Mohawk Valley’s main economic-development organization.

Mohawk Valley EDGE, Economic Development Growth Enterprises, gave its 18th annual Leading Edge awards on Thursday, May 23 during a luncheon at SUNY-Polytechnic Institute.

The award winners:

Danfoss Silicon Power. The German maker of semiconductors and semiconductor assemblies shipped its first products this past April, about 18 months after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the company would be the anchor tenant in the Quad C, or Computer Chip Commercialization Center, at SUNY Poly’s Utica campus.

It has about 30 employees on site but its ambition is to have 300 in three production shifts within five years, the company said in a video played during the awards event in the college fieldhouse.

Doubletree by Hilton and Visions Hotels, for their rehab of the historic Hotel Utica and their part in the revitalization of downtown Utica. Corning-based Visions Hotels transformed the 105-year-old, 112-room landmark, with a two-story lobby and new restaurant.

IDEA NY, the Innovation and Development Entrepreneurial Accelerator based at the Griffiss Institute in Rome and focused on commercializing technology developed by the Air Force, including the Rome Lab.

Utica’s Go Figure won the $200,000 grand prize earlier this year in the first startup pitch competition among six teams in the current Air Force Research Laboratory Information Diretorate Commercialization Academy. The incubator received a $2 million state Upstate Revitalization Initiative grant.

Square One Coating Systems of Oriskany, a metal finishings company serving more than 100 local and regional companies.

The company was founded in 2013 with three employees. Founder Lloyd Plooff said Square One developed an apprentice metal finishing program to develop employees. It’s seeking a new industrial-standards certification that would open up new markets and projects to be able to expand its facility in about five years, Ploof said.

Tractor Supply Company, for locating its northeast distribution center in Herkimer County at the 5S Business Park.

It has 240 employees but is on pace to have 350 in five years, serving not only the company’s stores but a direct-to-consumer online service as well.

The Westwood Utica, a 22-unit rental apartment building at 127 Genesee St. in Utica aimed at young professionals, complete with an on-site grocery store and fitness center.

Co-developers Enessa Carbone and Christine Martin told the Edge gathering that they kept price points in mind for people getting their first professional jobs because they want to keep young people in the area.

In addition, the Christopher Destito Award was given to Lawrence Gilroy III, president of Gilroy Kernan and Gilroy, an insurance, risk management and employee-benefits firm in New Hartford. Gilroy is on the EDGE board and that of the Bank of Utica, and recently was chairman of the Utica College Board of Trustees.

Thursday’s luncheon was held at SUNY Poly’s fieldhouse and nearly within sight of the Danfoss facility, which was built with extensive state aid as the Utica Quad C, or Computer Chip Commercialization Center in hopes of creating a hub of semiconductor manufacturing in the Mohawk Valley.

Nearby land intended for an even larger factory remains empty, though site preparation has been done to help any company the state and local authorities land start up quickly.

Landing a new, or “greenfield,” computer chip factory is very rare and difficult, said keynote speaker Douglas Grose, Center for Research, Economic Advancement, Technology, Engineering and Science, an organization the state created last year to lead industry-oriented research.

A Mohawk Valley native, Grose has worked for IBM, Hitachi, Advanced Micro Devices and Global Foundries, one of the world’s largest semiconductor companies.

But getting such a facility can have a very large effect on a local economy through developing supply chains, educational connections “and interesting, well-paying jobs,” Grose said.

Each job at such a plant can spin-off three to five more, Grose added.

“Yes, the placement of what is called a greenfield manufactring facility is rare and is expensive. But when it happens, the economic benefits are huge.”

EDGE President Steve DiMeo, who presided over the awards ceremony, cited favorable indicators of the local economy: In 10 years, 3% growth in the millenial population, 12% growth in gross metro product, 34% increase in global exports and 13% growth in annual wages. 

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