GUEST COLUMN: Region poised to continue economic momentum of 2022
In a series wrapping up next week, the Daily Sentinel, in partnership with the Genesis Group, has published articles written by area elected officials and business and community leaders.
GUEST COLUMN: Region poised to continue economic momentum of 2022
In a series wrapping up next week, the Daily Sentinel, in partnership with the Genesis Group, has published articles written by area elected officials and business and community leaders. In addition to the Sentinel’s Editorial Page, the articles are appearing in the Genesis Group’s weekly newsletters and social media pages.
This past year provides several examples that highlight the Mohawk Valley’s continued economic resurgence. These projects are dramatically reshaping our economy, providing a solid foundation for our long-term success.
Prime examples in 2022 of the region’s continued economic momentum includes:
Wolfspeed and Danfoss Silicon Power Growth:
The region’s hopes and aspirations were realized in 2022, as Wolfspeed completed the first, largest, and only silicon carbide semiconductor factory in the world at Marcy Nanocenter. This state-of-the-art facility represents a $1.2 billion investment.
Wolfspeed’s Mohawk Valley FAB (“MVF”) will begin shipping silicon carbide semiconductor devices in 2023 to serve its growing list of customers in the rapidly growing electric vehicle, energy, power supply, and industrial markets. Some of Wolfspeed’s automotive customers include: Lucid, GM, Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), and key OEM suppliers such as BorgWarner and ABB.
With only about 60% of its Marcy fab built out and tooled, Wolfspeed has accelerated plans for the fit out and tooling of the balance of its MVF cleanroom.
The adoption of silicon carbide is growing at a quicker rate than originally forecast, requiring more fab capacity and accelerating the hiring ramp for Wolfspeed’s MVF. To date the company has created 339 jobs of the 614 jobs it forecast, well ahead of its projected hiring schedule.
Similarly, Danfoss Silicon Power continued to add jobs in 2022, and currently has approximately 150 employees. Semikron and Danfoss Silicon Power merged in 2022 to form Semikron Danfoss and the company is proceeding with plans to tool the balance of its SUNY Poly power module factory and add to its workforce as additional manufacturing lines are located at its SUNY Poly site.
Adoption of federal and state economic development legislation for the semiconductor and advanced electronics industry:
Led by U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, the Federal Chips and Science Act affirms the economic and national security importance of the semiconductor industry if the United States is to retain its competitive edge in this vital industry. Likewise, Gov. Kathy Hochul secured approval of the Green Chips Act that enhances New York’s competitive position to attract additional industry investment.
The global semiconductor industry is poised for a decade of growth and is projected to become a trillion-dollar industry by 2030, and with Upstate New York is as a vital part of this industry’s growth.
Both pieces of legislation complement one another. A fitting example of this federal-state partnership is Micron’s announcement this past fall of its Mega Memory expansion in Syracuse. This site has a broad geographic reach that extends into the Utica-Rome MSA.
Further, the announcement makes the Utica- Rome MSA and Syracuse MSA the largest concentration of semiconductor and advanced electronics hub in New York. Marcy Nanocenter and the planned development of the 285-acre Griffiss Triangle site at the Griffiss Airport are key strategic sites that are primed to capture additional semiconductor and advance electronics ecosystem growth.
The continued transformation of Griffiss:
With over $950 million in public and private investment, Griffiss continues to anchor the region’s economic transformation. More than 6,000 jobs are on-site at Griffiss Business and Technology Park, reflecting the region’s economic resiliency and ability to overcome economic adversity.
Two significant milestone events at Griffiss occurred in 2022.
• First, the ribbon was cut on Sky Dome, which is the largest indoor drone test facility in the nation and anchors New York’s position as a global leader in uncrewed aircraft systems.
• Second, the Federal Aviation Administration approved the nation’s first beyond visual line of sight (“BVLOS”) over the full 50 miles of airspace within New York’s Drone Corridor with an uncrewed aerial test flight from Syracuse International Airport to Griffiss Airport. This momentous event further solidified New York’s leadership role and is just the tip of the spear on additional opportunities that will emerge as the industry matures and secures widespread adoption.
Led by Griffiss Institute and Air Force Research Laboratory, the Innovare Advancement Center is a key industry accelerator in developing talent for the region’s defense and innovation economy, promoting technology transfer opportunities, and seeding new business startups. Its alignment with AFRL is also driving next generation technologies with global researchers in areas such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Cybersecurity, and Quantum Computing, which enhances AFRL’s Rome Research Site military value to the Air Force and Department of Defense. Of its total funding base, 78% of its technology focus is in support of other AFRL Technology Directorates, which indicates the importance of the lab in support of our nation’s technology investment for military programs.
Complementing Griffiss’ economic growth is the development of key community amenities at the park, which enhance our region’s attractiveness to attract and retain talent. This progress is evidenced by the continued development of Air City Lofts that will have 256 units of market rate housing and 50,000-square feet of ground floor commercial space.
Within minutes of Air City Lofts, the City of Rome is working in partnership with Rome Industrial Development Corporation and Spring City Development on a 250-unit single family, town-home development across from Rome’s MVCC campus and plans for a new YMCA facility.
Building Vibrant Communities:
Perhaps the best testimonial to the region’s economic resurgence is the transformation taking place in downtown Utica with development of the Mohawk Valley Health System’s Wynn Hospital, slated to be open by October 2023.
Recently, a groundbreaking was held at the Central Utica Office Building. This 94,000 square foot private physicians’ medical office building is directly across from the hospital. The location will offer critical healthcare services with CNY Cardiology’s office, an ambulatory surgery center, and other medical services in radiology, a lab service center, advanced endoscopy, a comprehensive stroke and neuro–endovascular program, general and cardiothoracic surgery, as well as other physician offices.
Across from new downtown hospital campus, the Adirondack Bank Center and Nexus Center anchor the ongoing development of downtown as a sports and recreation center. The $65 million Nexus Center opened in November. The site is a world-class recreation and sporting complex that serves as a premier tournament-based facility for ice hockey, box lacrosse, soccer, and other field sports.
Nexus is solidifying the Utica area as a destination for sports and tournament play. Strategically located in downtown Utica, Nexus will impact Utica and our region’s tourism economy alongside the hospitality, food, and beverage sectors, which will benefit from visitor spending.
Development of Wynn Hospital and Central Utica Building is also sparking continued private developer interest. During this past year, downtown Utica has seen completion of the adaptive reuse of the former Utica Steam Cotton Building directly across from Wynn Hospital with 64 units of market rate loft apartments and 20,000-square feet of commercial space.
The former Commercial Traveler’s Building in historic Bagg’s Square has been redeveloped into 32 market rate apartments and 10,000 square feet of commercial space – anchored by Barton and LoGuidice’s expansion of its engineering, environmental science, planning and landscape architecture offices.
In August, the Saranac Biergarten opened, adding to the region’s sense of place and continued urban revitalization. A CFA grant was approved for the redevelopment of the former Children’s Museum Building into a mixed use commercial-market rate apartments project. Additional opportunities are on the drawing board with recent announcements of Restore NY grants for the Mayro and 131 Boston Place buildings a few weeks ago.
Renewed interest in the region’s urban and Main Street corridors is not limited to downtown Utica. Rome’s DRI with construction of the Copper City Lofts project is furthering Rome’s downtown redevelopment. Little Falls was announced by Gov. Hochul as a Round 5 Downtown Revitalization Initiative recipient, as the city and community stakeholders work to transform their historic downtown with $10 million in state funding.
Rural areas are also experiencing a resurgence. In Herkimer County, a $2 million RESTORE grant was approved for the former Duofold Building in Ilion. In Oneida County, plans are underway for a RESTORE grant application that will be submitted in January 2023 for the former Waterbury Felt Mill in Oriskany, which is also benefiting from brownfield assessment funding and potentially may be positioned for Brownfield Revolving Loan funds through an EPA grant awarded to Mohawk Valley EDGE.
Additional efforts are underway in the Town of Marcy with the Tech Barn Development along the Marcy SUNY Parkway. This 33-acre site is slated to have 232 units of market rate housing (182 apartments, and 50-town homes) and up to 40,000 square feet of commercial space. Park Grove Realty is expected to secure final development plan approval on the project in early 2023 with construction set to begin later in the year.
In November, the New York State Upstate Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA) recognized Mohawk Valley EDGE and Environmental Design and Research (EDR) with a best practice award for the Marcy Tech Barn project.
Existing Business and Small Business Investments:
While new business attraction is a key part of EDGE’s mission, it is also important to recognize the ongoing commitment of existing businesses that impact and invest in our region.
In 2022, Mohawk Valley EDGE supported small business development with 19 grants totaling $1,090,000 through the CARES Act and Microenterprise Grants awarded to Oneida County. There were also four loans totaling $215,615 executed through USDA, UIDC and the EDGE Job Development Loan Fund (JDLF).
In 2022, a key local business expansion project took place by Indium Corporation. Indium purchased the Hartford Insurance Building that currently serves as its corporate headquarters. The company continues to invest in its manufacturing sites in Utica, Rome and Kirkland, making the Utica-Rome area the largest location of Indium’s global footprint.
Indium’s expansion project is one of many area businesses devoted to ongoing success in our area. Fiber Instrument Sales (FIS) has been servicing the telecommunication fiber optic industry for over 35 years and is investing in its Oriskany operations. The Fountainhead Group built a 200,000 SF warehouse in the Schuyler Business Park, enabling the company to support its growing customer base. Their expansion project also enables the company to repurpose 80,000 SF of former warehouse space at its New York Mills site for production of its outdoor home garden and industrial products.
One disappointment in 2022 that will necessitate close vigilance in 2023 is the decision by the SUNY Board of Trustees to separate the College of Nanoscale Science from SUNY Polytechnic Institute. This decision to reunite within the University of Albany is misguided. SUNY Poly has accredited engineering programs while the University of Albany lacks accredited engineering curriculum.
This announcement was a shock to many in our region and comes on the heels of Micron’s expansion announcement in Syracuse and the success realized with Wolfspeed’s and Danfoss’s local commitments. It is imperative that we make sure that the Board of Trustees decision is not a singular act that diminishes SUNY Poly’s academic standing.
The Board of Trustees and the governor must back their pledge to make SUNY Poly the premier public polytechnic academic institution in the SUNY system as was stated in the SUNY resolution approving the separation of CNSE from SUNY Poly.
This process requires a commitment to undergraduate and graduate engineering curriculum, making strategic investments in facilities and labs, and increasing faculty slots. In doing so, these commitments will enable SUNY Poly to fulfill its intended mission and build on major investments rooted with Micron’s mega memory semiconductor expansion, Wolfspeed, Semikron Danfoss, AFRL, local home grown companies such as AIS, Indium and the region’s existing advanced manufacturing base.
Given the region’s growing high tech economy and demands for engineers and a high skilled workforce, it is important that SUNY doubles down on its investment in SUNY Poly at a time when SUNY Poly is seeing significant enrollment growth and the Utica-Rome and Syracuse region is positioned for significant growth in its high technology sectors.
Steve DiMeo is the president of Mohawk Valley EDGE (Economic Development Growth Enterprises Corporation), headquartered on the Griffiss Business and Technology Park in Rome.
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