At the annual Mohawk Valley legislative forum in Utica, state and local leaders said the region's economy is poised to expand thanks to several major projects, but the endangered status of the nano technology center in Marcy loomed throughout the discussion.
New York state and Oneida County officials have been scrambling to replace the main corporate partner at the Marcy chip fabrication plant since the Austrian company AMS dropped out in the fall. Elected officials say that search continues, and Utica Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi noted that Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposed budget includes more than $600 million for the site.
"We've never seen this kind of investment in our area -- I can't remember when," Brindisi said. "But our job is to show that we can land the plane and that's what we're working to do now."
The Empire State Development Corporation, New York's economic development agency, has been seeking another company to fill that vacancy as well. Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente says he has started reaching out to prospective replacement companies himself, like a Chinese manufacturer Foxconn that is reportedly interested in building a flat-screen TV plant in the U.S.
"Not leaving any stone unturned, any opportunity that we see and hear about," Picente said. "As the state goes -- and it's not any criticism -- but we can't wait. That's our job. We need to continue to look at opportunity so when we hear about them, as they appear on the radar we're going to go after them ourselves as well."
Cuomo's proposed investment in the nano center, and a $300 million allocation for a hospital in downtown Utica, is one of the few items of his budget that any of the Mohawk Valley Republicans or Democrats endorsed. State Sen. Joe Griffo rebuked the governor's plan to pay for initiatives with millions of dollars in new fees and taxes on the wealthy.
"I believe the answer to economic opportunity is to lower our taxes, to ease the regulatory burdens we put on businesses and to reduce utility rates," Griffo said. "These are our challenges."
The leaders at the forum also criticized Cuomo's free SUNY and CUNY college tuition plan for families making less than $125,000, saying the state should instead be investing in K-12 schools in poorer cities like Utica.