A company working in cybersecurity primarily for defense and described as home-grown in Rome is getting added help from Oneida County in hopes of helping it keep some of its operations at Griffiss Business and Technology Park.
AIS, also known as Assured Information Security, won approval Thursday from the county Industrial Development Agency board of directors for an exemption from sales taxes worth $43,800 on upgrades to its server room. It committed to five jobs.
AIS wants to add electrical wiring to its server facility at 153 Brooks Road, upgrade the ininterruptable power supply and cooling system, install a diesel power generator and a state-of-the-art fire suppression system and conduct related construction work. The total estimated cost is $500,000.
AIS is a tenant of Cardinal Griffiss Realty, which is a subsidiary of Griffiss Local Development Corporation, an entity created to help convert the closed air force base to new uses, and Mohawk Valley Economic Development Growth Enterprises Corporation, or EDGE, the not-for-profit development organization serving Oneida County.
Financing of the building AIS occupies included a $6.6 million loan from GLDC to Cardinal Griffiss, a loan of $1.6 million from Oneida Savings Bank, a $2.4 million USBancorp Community Development Corporation loan based on federal tax credits arranged in part by Empire State Development, and a $1 million grant to GLDC from the state agency, according to a 2010 press release from the state about the project. It noted AIS then had 85 employees.
Edge President Steve DiMeo said the company was started in 2001 by a couple of “lab rats” and grew quickly, with the company’s main customer being the Air Force Research Lab, also known as Rome Lab, based nearby at Griffiss, and has branched out into other sectors, including the auto industy, and has revenues above $100 million now.
He said the upgrades come out of discussions between the company and Cardinal Griffiss over the adequacy of the server room.
The IDA board voted 5-2 for the package but not without discussion about whether a sales-tax break on a facility upgrade and equipment is appropriate and whether enough is being done to help high-tech employers attract and keep employees.
Board vice chairman Michael Fitzgerald questioned giving even a relatively small tax incentive for a facility upgrade to a company that appears to be thriving and wondered if other companies would want the same.
“If they want to build a new building that someday is going to generate real estate taxes, I’ll be all for giving them a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes agreement),” Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald was joined in voting against the resolution by Mary Faith Messenger of Rome.
IDA Executive Director and Secretary Shawna Papale told board members that AIS’ decision to invest in its building comes as companies are often telling economic-development agencies they are struggling to attract and keep employees.
“They can say do we invest the money here and make that decison to grow that facility or do we do it one of our other locations because they have that struggle of attracting people here.”
Board Chairman David Grow said he shared Fitzgerald’s concerns but also is aware of employers’ personnel challenges.
“I certainly don’t want to send a negative statement to them that we don’t want you here simply because we don’t want you to take a $45,000 sales tax exemption,” he said. “The need for finding a way to attract peole to the area to move here to work at these high tech jobs is something that I certainly hope others are looking at because that’s a major, major issue.”