Utica Observer-Dispatch: Nanotech to become Mohawk Valley's economic engine

Thursday's announcement of billions in investment and thousands of jobs represents another important step in the creation of the state's technology corridor, which stretches from Albany to Buffalo.

By Elizabeth Cooper

It finally happened.

In an explosive announcement at the Computer Chip Commercialization Center Thursday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave the news that two major companies will be investing billions of dollars for nanotechnology research and manufacture in Marcy.

That investment could generate as many as 4,000 new jobs by 2025, officials said. And more than half of them are expected by sometime in 2017.

  • Austria-based AMS semiconductor company will invest $2 billion to open a chip fabrication plant nearby that will employ 1,000 people.
  • General Electric Co. will move into the Center, known as the Quad-C, invest $150 million and employ 470 people. Its facility will be known as the Power Electronics packaging facility.
  • Already, several other companies — IBM, Advanced Nanotechnology Solutions and Tokyo Electronics — have pledged to hire a combined total of 1,000 people at Quad-C. Total public and private investment in this center is expected to be $1.5 billion.

“This is not just 2,500 jobs, it provides you with an economic engine that can drive an entire economy,” Cuomo said.

But he cautioned that the area should tend to the investment and make sure it grows.

“You have the beginning of an economic revolution here, but you have to work with it, you have to partner it,” Cuomo said. “This is not in itself an economic revolution, it is the beginning of one, and it is here for you now.”

The news was met with emotional cheers and hugs by the roughly 150 people gathered inside one of the Quad-C’s high-tech clean rooms.

Area officials spoke of their hopes that young people would stay and the area revive.

“These are well-paying jobs that will grow our middle class and make our area a region where you can work and raise a family, and you won’t see our college students leaving to find a job,” said Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, D-Utica. “You will find them staying right here in the Mohawk Valley.”

And state Sen. Joseph Griffo, R-Rome, quoted GE’s old jingle “We bring good things to life.”

“Today, you are bringing great things to our community,” he said.

“The GE story is a great story,” he said. “A company that played such an important part in our history, that left, but came back because they could see the good things and the potential on the horizon. Welcome back.”

Tech corridor

Thursday’s announcement represents another important step in the creation of the state’s technology corridor, which stretches from Albany to Buffalo.

SUNY Polytechnic President Alain Kaloyeros, who is widely regarded as the architect of the corridor, said it’s hoped the corridor will forge “a regional, but also an interregional economy,” that stretches across the state.

“GE and AMS truly anchor Utica and the Mohawk Valley as one of the largest hubs,” he said. “The credit goes to one man, and one man only, Gov. Andrew Cuomo.”

Over the past year, Cuomo and Kaloyeros have announced a string of technology partnerships between the state and private companies in Rochester, Syracuse and Buffalo.

Marcy’s SUNY Poly is a key element in Utica’s success. Formerly known as SUNYIT, the college is now merged with Albany’s College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, the school that helped drive the development of Albany’s tech sector.

AMS

AMS Chief Operating Officer Thomas Stockmeier appeared at the announcement via a pre-recorded video from his home in Austria.

He said though his company is not a household name, it’s likely that most people own things that contain its technology. The company is also developing technology for advances including self-driving cars and sensors for monitoring individual homes.

“With the new fab, all of the technology I have spoken of will come from Utica,” he said. “I feel personally that we can add an important piece of the puzzle that makes this region the world’s leading technology hub for micro and nanotechnologies.”

AMS is a fast-growing company based in southern Austria. Founded in 1981, it employs about 1,800 people in 20 countries. Its only other U.S. location is a research and development facility in Plano, Texas, and its only other fab is in Austria. Some other fabrication work is done for the company through partnerships with other entities, a spokeswoman said.

Oneida County economic development officials have been marketing the site in Marcy to chip fab companies since 1998, when the state offered funding for such initiatives

In 2006, Advanced Micro Devices looked closely at the Marcy site, but instead chose one in the Capital District. Since then, area officials have poured millions into making it shovel ready. By now, about $56 million in state, local and economic development funds has been spent or pledged for the site.

GE

GE Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Mark Little called it a “delight” to be in the Mohawk Valley as part of Cuomo’s “powerhouse tech corridor.”

At the Quad-C, the company will work on its pioneering silicon carbide technology, which it’s hoped will be used in everything from defense technology and supercomputing to cell phones.

“This is a $50 billion industry,” Little said. “How well we do and how fast we innovate will determine what share of that business will come to New York. We are playing to win.”

GE has a long and storied history in the Utica area.

The company first put a plant in the city in 1944, during World War II, and continued operations until the early 1990s.

In 1960, at their height, the local GE plants employed 6,000 people.

Bill Chanatry, 86, worked in middle management for GE for 40 years, and said it was “super to work for,” and that it was a strong supporter of community initiatives.

“They were a great supporter of every charity there was,” said Chanatry, who now owns Chanatry’s Hometown Market. “And they rallied all the employees to support them.”

Little said he is “thrilled” the company is back in Utica and community investment is important to GE.

“I am confident we will engage as we do in every community we are involved in,” he said.

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