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Waste Watch: Genesee County's field of freams

Updated: Wednesday, July 10 2013, 02:46 PM EDT

Alabama, N.Y. – Genesee County is buying 1,248 acres of farmland to create a high-tech manufacturing hub. The county plans to invest $38 million in the site before signing a deal with a single company.
 
“It’s about getting ready,” said Steven G. Hyde, head of Genesee County Economic Development Center. “We can’t even have a serious conversation unless we show enough of a funding commitment to the site that we’re credible.”
 
The county has been working on the project for seven years. It’s already acquired 415 acres and secured a couple milliondollars. The site will be called STAMP – Science andTechnology Advanced Manufacturing Park. 
 
The county is targeting nanotechnology firms that manufacturer microchips. Companies in the fields of solar, biomedical, and flat screen displays are also being recruited. The county is looking at industries that need “mega-sites” to build giant, multi-billion dollar factories from the ground up. These factories can employ thousands of people.
 
“If you want to have the opportunity to create jobs that pay $100,000-plus a year - that’s the average at the Intel site in Oregon - you have to create the environment,” Hyde said.
 
Regional economic development officials believe STAMP is attractive for several reasons. It’s five miles from the Thruway, 20 minutes from the Buffalo airport and 40 minutes from the Henrietta Thruway exit. It’s close to the labor markets of Buffalo and Rochester. It is also near several universities doing high-level research, including University of Buffalo, Rochester Institute of Technology, University of Rochester and Cornell University. Major National Grid and New York Power Authority lines also run right through the property. 
 
Lyle Starkweather, who owns a restaurant in nearby Oakfield, said most residents work in Rochester or Buffalo. 
 
“Right now the young people seem to be moving on. They go to college or get into a trade and find jobs out of the Oakfield-Alabama area,” Starkweather said. “I think (STAMP) may also let local people have an opportunity to work in the area.”

Way Bigger than Yogurt
 
Genesee County took a similar approach with its Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park. It spent years planning the site andinvested $7 million. There are now two yogurt plants and employment will reach several hundred people this summer.
 
STAMP is much, much bigger.
 
Genesee County hopes to replicate the success of the Global Foundries factory outside Albany. The chip manufacturing is investing $8 billion and will soon employ several thousand people. Genesee County officials envision a Silicon Valley that stretches down the Thruway.
 
Landing such a company takes a massive amount of tax dollars. Just to get the site “shovel ready light,” taxpayers will have to invest $38 million. That includes land acquisition, environmental studies and connections to water, sewer and electricity. 
 
“If you don’t have a space, a site that is pretty much ready to go, you can’t compete in that world,” said Mark Peterson of Greater Rochester Enterprise. ‘They have an expectation that you are a community that’s ready to embrace this kind of company.”
 
If You Build It, Will They Come?
 
“The risk is you build it and they don’t come, simple as that,” said George Conboy, head of Brighton Securities. “You put up this beautiful infrastructure and someone in a neighboring state or across the country puts up something similar, 5 percent better, they get the business. We’ve spent all this development on a cow pasture in the middle of somewhere and we never get any promised benefit.”
 
There are no guarantees Genesee County will be successful in attracting a giant firm. 
 
“That’s why you have to have a Plan B,” said Peterson. “Worst case scenario, we get another $100-200 million dollar food processing facility. So the worst case scenario is that investment we make doesn’t get wasted, it gets repurposed.”
 
Genesee County hopes to make an announcement about what’s going to move into STAMP within a year and a half to three years. It is actively recruiting firms.
 
If Genesee County can land the big one, taxpayers will be asked to invest $350 million over 10 to 15 years to build out the entire site. The payoff would be thousands of jobs at STAMP and thousands more supply chain jobs. Some supply chain companies may even find Eastman Business Park attractive.
 
“You’re talking 30,000 to 50,000 workers,” said Hyde. “We’re in the game."
Waste Watch: Genesee County's field of freams


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