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STAMP site in Genesee County

 

Did you know there’s a plan to put a giant science and tech park in Genesee County that backers say has the potential to create 30,000 jobs?

The mega-site is called STAMP – short for Science Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park.

From the STAMP website:

The STAMP site has great potential to transform Western New York into a high-tech/clean-tech hub of manufacturing similar to Luther Forest in Saratoga. After five years with $1.5 billion in private investment, over 2,000 jobs will be created onsite and about 5,500 regional supply chain jobs will be leveraged.  Full build-out of the STAMP site is expected to be 15 to 20 years out, but will bring in $10 billion in private capital investment and employ over 10,500 workers directly, 30,000 supply chain jobs and 2,839 construction jobs across both the Buffalo and Rochester metro areas.

Folks, this is way bigger than yogurt.

Economic development officials think they can leverage low cost power and huge amounts of land to attract high tech companies. STAMP is one of the priority projects for the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council. The estimated cost to develop the site is $250 million. The Buffalo News reports:

Steven G. Hyde, president and CEO of the Genesee County Economic Development Center, said plans for the park are in their sixth year. “This isn’t a pipe dream that just started yesterday. This is real and has lots of potential.”

(snip)

While semiconductor chip manufacturing is a prime target for STAMP, it is not the only high-tech industry that would be a good fit, Hyde said, mentioning solid-state lighting and photovoltaic products as two others.

Competing for such coveted plants requires a massive, available site like STAMP with some infrastructure, Kucharski said. These types of companies want access to a large labor pool like Buffalo and Rochester can offer, but also want to build on a low-vibration “greenfield” with ample room to expand; Kucharski said the STAMP site meets those criteria.

It seems Eastman Business Park and STAMP have the same goals. EBP has more going for it in terms of existing infrastructure and proximity to workers, transportation and the airport. EBP may not be a “greenfield,” but it’s just as large. EBP, which is also a Finger Lakes council priority, will almost certainly require gobs of tax dollars to modernize. Why not shift STAMP there? Why are we going to spend millions of both sites? Both will compete for the same tax dollars and tenants.

This seems like industrial sprawl.

Links of the Day:

- The “elder statesman” of the Sabres, who helped bring the team to Buffalo, has died.

- The story of a Rochester policeman who is gay.

- The Los Angeles Times has the touching and sad story of a religious teenager paralyzed in a shooting who snitches because it’s the right thing to do. Part One and Part Two.

- Let’s remember this holiday season how little retail workers are paid. There are good reasons they should be paid more.

- How much longer can J.C. Penney survive?

- Why pot should be legalized.

How much should politicians elected statewide know about Rochester?

Senator Chuck Schumer has set the bar very high, as he comes here frequently and always demonstrates knowledge about our community. No issue is too small for our senator, who managed to “out pothole Senator Pothole.” Schumer has been ridiculed for bandwagoning on issues making headlines, but the man understands that “all politics is local.”

Perhaps it’s not fair to hold other statewide politicians to this standard. They’re extremely busy people and Rochester is only the third-largest city (with the second-largest economy) in the state.

But I suspect we have a couple statewide politicians who don’t know a lot about us.

There was the Senator Kirsten Gillibrand debacle, in which she couldn’t name our largest employer (or any of them) after giving a speech without any local references.

Then there was the shocking event where Governor Andrew Cuomo confessed he knew nothing about the Midtown project. That was astonishing, considering there’s a hole in the middle of the downtown of the state’s third-largest city (with the second-largest economy). It was even more incredible, because his running mate was responsible for that hole and the state paid $55 million to create that hole.

Last week, Cuomo was at the U of R supercomputer announcement. He gave a speech about how each region of the state had its own economy and distinct assets. He didn’t mention anything specific about Rochester.

I asked him after the press conference what is on his wish list for Rochester. Here’s what he said:

That Rochester does what Rochester thinks it should do. For too many years, state government in Albany thought they could dictate to Rochester or they could tell the Finger Lakes what was best for the Finger Lakes. I do it the exact opposite way…those who are closest to the community know best and we’ve organized the Finger Lakes and they decide their own future and they tell us how we can be helpful to them rather than vice versa.

Cuomo could have said something like, “I would like Eastman Business Park to become the most high-tech hub in the state.” Or he could have said, “I hope Midtown Plaza is built up with companies and housing and entertainment.” In his answer, the governor did not demonstrate any specific knowledge about the region.

As for the regional economic council system he referenced, Rochester got shorted in funding. As for local control, today we read the state is hatching a plan to impose control boards on financially struggling municipalities.

Lieutenant Governor and former mayor Bob Duffy has said Cuomo is engaged and trusts him to keep him posted on local issues. Maybe Cuomo defers to Duffy’s expertise on Rochester stuff. But the buck stops at the top.

It’s also interesting to note, on that same day Cuomo gave a vague answer when Syracuse reporters asked him about their big boondoggle, the Destiny USA project.

When you (infrequently) come to Rochester, expect some Rochester questions.

Links of the Day:

- Governor Andrew Cuomo is expected to announce hydrofracking guidelines soon. An Albany Times Union columnist has an inside look at what this will mean for the state.

- Jamestown wants to become the Cooperstown of comedy, building on the legacy of Lucille Ball.

- The Syracuse Post-Standard has a poignant look at how some neighbors are trying to take back their block from thugs.

- A new ShopRite store opened and people declared it better than Wegmans. Say it ain’t so!

City of Rochester Communications Bureau

A fellow reporter asked Lieutenant Governor Bob Duffy on Thursday about the billion dollars going to Buffalo for economic development. Rochesterians have been quite miffed. Here is his response:

We have some great football games this weekend and at the end of the first quarter you don’t declare a winner. We have, I believe the best governor in the country. We have one fourth of his term done. By my count about $200 million has been earmarked or on its way to Rochester in the last month or so.

Buffalo is the second largest city. Rochester is the third. The governor made a decision that put a stake in the ground. But what has happened in Buffalo, that investment, I would say if it’s as successful as I believe it will be, you’ll see the same things happen in Rochester and Syracuse.

And what I’ve told the governor is there’s this incredible Upstate competition with cities, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse. If we got the $1 billion, Buffalo would be up in arms. So I think you have that competitive issue.

Rochester is not forgotten. If the governor was here speaking, he would tell you how much is passed along and communicated about what goes on here and the needs. But in all honesty, I don’t argue with the decisions that were made. Our Regional Council here did an extraordinary job…They did not win. They did not win the top four, but the scoring was so close, anyone could have won. But there’s four more years…of that money coming.

Duffy was definitely defensive, but not overly so. Apparently, being the third-largest city behind Buffalo matters.

I was a little curious that the governor’s budget called the Buffalo initiative an attempt to form
“innovation clusters.” We have those in Rochester already and they sorely need funding. But it’s fair to say there’s still a lot of time in the Cuomo administration.

Photo Credit: City of Rochester Communications Bureau

Is Rochester the redheaded stepchild of Albany?

First, we received tens of millions of dollars less than our counterparts in Regional Economic Development funding. Now we find out in the State of the State Address the City of Buffalo is getting $1 billion in funding for economic development. That’s billion with a “B.” Rochester didn’t even get a shout-out during the speech.

Governor Andrew Cuomo said Buffalo is “in crisis.” Rochester isn’t?

There’s no question our region has lower unemployment and a long-proven ability to rebound from the dramatic downsizing of our large companies. (How ironic that the governor was making his address while reports of Kodak’s impending bankruptcy broke.)

But if we’re going to compare cities, Buffalo and Rochester have virtually identical poverty rates. The median income hovers around $30,000 with one-third of residents living in poverty. The June high school graduation rates don’t top 50 percent.

I’m not terribly familiar with downtown Buffalo, but I can’t imagine Rochester’s downtown is better. Our Main Street is pockmarked with vacancies and a giant hole in the ground. (Has Cuomo learned about Midtown yet?)

Whatever regional success we’re experiencing, it hasn’t trickled down in any giant way to the urban core.

Let’s also remember the City of Rochester faces state-imposed burdens its neighbors do not share. Rochester is required by state law to pay its school district more than Buffalo and Syracuse combined. It also gets less state aid per capita than Buffalo and Syracuse.

Sandy Parker of the Rochester Business Alliance said in a statement, “I am deeply disappointed that Rochester and the Finger Lakes were again overlooked by the powers in Albany…The long-held view in Albany that Rochester can take care of itself is unfair- and punitive.”

The absence of any mention of the Flower City is all the more astounding because our former mayor was at the governor’s side. Does Cuomo think Duffy is still in charge of Rochester and taking care of our problems?

I’m heartened the governor thinks urban issues are important. So is Rochester.

City of Rochester website

When it demolished Midtown Plaza, the city left the steel skeletons of the Seneca Building and Midtown Tower standing. Steel and foundations are expensive and the city bet developers would reuse those structures.

The mayor admirably salvaged the PAETEC/Windstream deal and construction on the Seneca Building is expected in the spring.

The future of Midtown Tower, however, still looks iffy. The city selected a proposal from Christa Development Corporation and Morgan Management to turn Midtown Tower into luxury condos and apartments.

When City Council approved the project in September 2010, Christa’s Brian McKinnon made it clear what would prevent construction. “Financing. At the end of the day as you well know without access to credit, especially today, projects don’t happen.”

A lack of financing is precisely why construction didn’t start on the $73.5 million project in July 2011, as expected. The Finger Lakes Economic Development Council applied to the state for $2 million to help pay for the tower renovation, but the state rejected the request.

The state funding application indicates the developers still have to close on other financing, including $13.5 million in new market tax credits, $24 million mortgage, $16.5 million federal HUD loan, and $19 million in state bonding. The project has already gotten $6.9 million in state funding.

It’s clear this is one super-complicated project with a lot of moving parts.

When the city left the tower standing, all I could think about was the Hyatt fiasco of the late 1980s. Who doesn’t remember the scar on the skyline – the abandoned, half-built hotel? It was the era’s fast ferry. Midtown Tower is a similar eyesore.

But the tower can’t stand forever exposed to the elements. This will be the structure’s second winter stripped of its exterior. The city still owns the property and can tear down the tower if it must. Let’s all hope that’s not the ending to this story.