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March 3, 2017 - 9:07am

STAMP, other parks, continue to generate buzz among site locators, Hyde tells Legislators

posted by Howard B. Owens in GCEDC, WNY STAMP, business, news.

Staff at Genesee County Economic Development Center responded to 120 leads of businesses looking for locations to set up new facilities, CEO Steve Hyde told members of the County Legislature during his annual review of the agency's progress before the Ways and Means Committee.

The pipeline of high-tech businesses that are looking for the kind of location the STAMP project in Alabama provides includes at least two "whales," Hyde said.

That has kept staff busy, especially in a year when work continues to prepare STAMP for ground breaking this spring.

"We're one of the few counties in the state with lots of sites to choose from," Hyde said.

Those include not only STAMP but the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park, Apple Tree Acres, Buffalo East, Gateway II, Upstate Med-Tech, Oatka Hills and now the Le Roy Food and Tech Park.

"Our body of work is as big as it's ever been at the agency," Hyde said.

It was a tepid year for job growth, Hyde said, and uncertainty around the Federal election in 2016 had many businesses sitting on their hands waiting to see what happened, but he thinks Genesee County is well positioned to move forward in the new era of technology-led growth.

While technology jobs tend to optimize for efficient production, there will be opportunities for people who want to live and work in Genesee County.

"You've got to go after these high-tech jobs because they're good paying, well-paying jobs for kids from high school degrees and technical training all the way up to PhDs," Hyde said. "They don't create as many jobs per square foot, but they create a lot of jobs for what we're used to in Genesee County."

This year will be a big year for implementation, Hyde said, especially on STAMP, with the beginning of a phased approach to a $40 million investment in roads, water, sewer, gas and electric at the site.

The agency is awaiting federal approval of a natural gas pipeline project that has apparently been delayed by the transition of White House administrations.

"There are not enough sitting commissioners Federal Energy Regulatory Committee to approve our little pipeline with natural gas," Hyde said. "Of course, they can approve the Dakota Pipeline but not that little stuff. That didn't get done."

There's also a delay in Department of Energy funding assistance for 1366 Technologies and without securing that funding, 1366 has delayed its own announcement of when it will be breaking ground on its solar wafer manufacturing facility in Alabama.

Meanwhile, to help support STAMP with a qualified labor force, GCEDC is working with area colleges and universities on a program called STEM to STAMP, which will provide course work suitable for the kind of jobs expected to be created at STAMP.

There's also a lot of interest at area high schools in filtering that coursework down to that level of education, including at Pembroke, Oakfield-Alabama, Batavia, and Byron-Bergen.

"We're all talking about, 'How can we take this model where we can take this curriculum that's developed by universities and colleges and bring pieces of that course work down into our secondary schools?' " Hyde said.

Given the potential of STAMP to create 11,500 good-paying jobs in high tech, Hyde said the agency continues to push state and federal officials for support.

"We're not getting there unless we continue to find ways to secure infrastructure funding, to expand the capacity, so I can go out and sell them and try to bag the big whale," Hyde said.

The GCEDC will host its annual meeting at noon today at Batavia Downs.

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