May 2016 Cover Story: Economic Development

Securing a stronger future for the north country

COR Development’s Mercy Health Center Redevelopment project is set to begin its first phase of construction this summer on 30,000 square feet of commercial space and 108 apartments. Overall, the project will house 168 units and a community center on the grounds of the former Mercy Hospital in Watertown. Photo by Stephen Swofford, NNY Business.

COR Development’s Mercy Health Center Redevelopment project is set to begin its first phase of construction this summer on 30,000 square feet of commercial space and 108 apartments. Overall, the project will house 168 units and a community center on the grounds of the former Mercy Hospital in Watertown. Photo by Stephen Swofford, NNY Business.

Despite workforce challenges, regional economic development continues to power positive growth across Northern New York

By Karee Magee, NNY Business

A rural and historically challenged region where economic development was often stagnant, the Great Recession dealt a significant blow to New York’s north country as its counties saw a spike in unemployment and manufacturing jobs disappear, including about 600 from Jefferson County alone. [Read more…]

Government largest employer in St. Lawrence County

CANTON — By far, the greatest number of jobs in St. Lawrence County are in the government sector, which also provides the second highest average salaries, according to a new economic development report. [Read more…]

Alcoa in Massena to lay off 37 workers at end of February

Thirty-seven Alcoa employees will be involuntarily laid off at the end of February. The company had originally planned to cut 487 positions until a deal to keep the company operating in Massena was negotiated with state officials and Sen. Charles E. Schumer, who announced the agreement two days before Thanksgiving. Photo by Jason Hunter, Watertown Daily Times.

Thirty-seven Alcoa employees will be involuntarily laid off at the end of February. The company had originally planned to cut 487 positions until a deal to keep the company operating in Massena was negotiated with state officials and Sen. Charles E. Schumer, who announced the agreement two days before Thanksgiving. Photo by Jason Hunter, Watertown Daily Times.

MASSENA — What was originally 487 jobs that would have been lost at Alcoa’s Massena operation has been trimmed to 85, including 37 involuntary layoffs.

The original 487 positions would have been eliminated had Alcoa followed through with plans announced on Nov. 2 to close the Massena East smelter rather than modernizing it, and idling the Massena West smelter.

But, under a deal negotiated with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Sen. Charles E. Schumer and announced two days before Thanksgiving, the company made commitments to keep the plant open for the next 3½ years and maintain 600 full-time equivalent jobs. The agreement is retroactive to Oct. 1 and runs through March 31, 2019.

Company officials announced this week that 85 positions needed to be cut. But, after retirements, voluntary quit packages and transfers, the number of involuntary layoffs was reduced to 37 individuals who will lose their jobs as of Feb. 27, according to Robert A. Smith, United Steelworkers Local 420-A president.

“They reduced our numbers by 85 total. After the voluntary quit, retirement and transfer processes, they posted Tuesday that they were laying off 37 people involuntarily,” he said.

Mr. Smith said seniority was defined by the date workers started at the Massena West plant, so those who transferred after closure of the East Plant weren’t allowed to transfer their seniority and were part of the layoffs.

“When you talk about company seniority, it’s defined as the start date at this location,” he said.

Mr. Smith said even one layoff was too many, but the situation could have been worse.

“One layoff is difficult. If you look at the bright side, thanks to Senator Schumer, Governor Cuomo and Senator (Joseph R.) Griffo and their efforts, 37 is better than 487,” he said.

Under the terms of the agreement, the New York Power Authority will provide $30 million in low-cost hydropower to Alcoa. But that reduction in cost will fluctuate if the price of aluminum increases in the global metals exchange market.

NYPA’s Board of Trustees approved the agreement in December, revising a 2014 deal with Alcoa. NYPA is now accepting written comments on their proposed contract, and will take public comments during a hearing scheduled for 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Frank S. McCullough Jr. Hawkins Point Visitors Center in Massena. The proposed agreement can be viewed at nypa.gov.

“Under the legislation that created Preservation Power, a public hearing must first be held before any award by our trustees is finalized. This also applies to our Expansion Power and Replacement Power Programs in Western New York,” NYPA Media Relations Manager Steven P. Gosset said. “The hearing is standard procedure for NYPA and was not called specifically because the allocation involves Alcoa.”

Anyone who wants to make statements at the hearing is asked to provide to NYPA, in advance of the hearing, their name and the name of the organization or group they represent. They’re also asked to bring two hard copies of their oral statements and limit their statements to five minutes.

Written statements that are provided by close of business on Feb. 12 will also become part of the record of the hearing.

For more information, call 914-390-8085 or email secretarys.office@nypa.gov.

By Bob Beckstead, Watertown Daily Times

Study outlines 5-year strategy to boost St. Lawrence County’s economy

Matt Warren, right, a customer support representative for Frazer Computing, Inc. provides phone support Wednesday at Frazer Computing, Inc., 6196 US-11 in Canton. Also pictured is Mike Burnett, left, also a customer support representative. Photo by Jason Hunter, Watertown Daily Times.

Matt Warren, right, and Mike Burnett provide customer phone support Wednesday at Frazer Computing Inc., Route 11, Canton. A five-year plan compiled for the New York Power Authority recommends small business growth among ways to boost St. Lawrence County’s economy. Photo by Jason Hunter, Watertown Daily Times.

CANTON — A $4 million economic development study just released by the New York Power Authority lays out a five-year strategy for reversing St. Lawrence County’s stagnant economy. [Read more…]

Cuomo signs Power Act into law; $2 million to be used for economic development in St. Lawrence County

Nearly $2 million now will be available for economic development in St. Lawrence County after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation Monday that allows proceeds from the sale of a block of hydropower from the New York Power Authority’s St. Lawrence-Franklin D. Roosevelt Power Project to be used to help create jobs and build industry in the region.

Monetization of the 20 megawatts is the centerpiece of the deal, which brings to a conclusion the review of the relicensing agreement between the north country and NYPA.

The deal, if approved by the host communities, also provides a $10 million reduction in power costs for businesses and farms in St. Lawrence, Jefferson and Franklin counties by using 239 megawatts that Alcoa temporarily relinquished at its Massena operations. The low-cost power will reduce electricity costs for up to three years, according to officials.

The sale of power will help create new jobs and spur capital investments in the region, according to state officials. Approximately $2 million a year will be generated from the hydropower sale and will be available to qualified enterprises in support of capital investments and new jobs in the region under the Northern New York Power Proceeds Allocation Act.

“St. Lawrence County plays an important role in driving the economy throughout the north country — and this legislation supports that relationship by clearing the way for targeted investments in some of the region’s best assets,” Gov. Cuomo said in a news release Tuesday. “I am proud to sign the Northern New York Power Proceeds Allocation Act because it gives another boost to help attract businesses and create jobs in the region.”

The act was passed after years of negotiations between the state and regional officials. The Northern New York Power Proceeds Allocation Act is similar to legislation created in 2012 for the use of unused hydropower from NYPA’s Niagara Power Project for economic development in Western New York.

The nearly $2 million in earnings will come from the sale of hydropower that in 2010 was made available to the St. Lawrence River Valley Redevelopment Agency and the St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency Local Development Corp. for economic development following the failed St. Lawrence Aquarium project.

“We have been working for nearly four years to bring the monetized value of our economic development power to this area,” Robert O. McNeil, chairman of the St. Lawrence River Valley Redevelopment Agency, said in the governor’s news release. “We look forward to helping to maximize the local benefits from this unique new resource.”

The ability to use the proceeds of this sale for awards to eligible businesses and nonprofit organizations in St. Lawrence County is one of the key elements included in a tentative agreement reached this month between the New York Power Authority and the St. Lawrence Local Government Task Force, the result of the completion of a 10-year review of a settlement agreement between the two entities for the 2003 federal relicensing of the St. Lawrence-Franklin D. Roosevelt Power Project that began more than one year ago.

“The ability to monetize the hydropower promises to make a big difference for economic development in our area,” said Joseph D. Gray, chairman of the St. Lawrence Local Government Task Force. “This is a crucial facet of the tentative agreement that the task force reached with NYPA in the 10-year review of the 2003 settlement agreement for the St. Lawrence’s plant’s relicensing. The governor’s signing of the proceeds bill will set everything else in motion.”

The power, intended to attract new businesses and help existing ones expand, was granted in a contract approved by New York Power Authority trustees in September. The river agency, which represents the towns of Lisbon, Waddington, Louisville and Massena and St. Lawrence County, sought the power to rectify what officials called discrepancies between NYPA’s 50-year federal relicensing settlement to operate the St. Lawrence-FDR power dam in Massena and the Niagara hydrodam in Western New York.

The agreement also includes up to $5 million in funding for an economic development and strategic marketing and global search study by a “top-tier management consulting firm to assist the [task force] communities to identify and attract businesses and industries,” according to the proposal. The study will include identifying alternatives to deploy and leverage existing monetary and power resources.

Other elements of the agreement include:

Initiation of an energy efficiency and renewable energy-savings program for LGTF government and school buildings that will include $1.5 million in grants to fund energy audits for identifying opportunities for reducing energy costs. The program will be aligned with the governor’s statewide BuildSmart NY initiative for reducing energy use in public buildings by 20 percent by 2020;

Funding support for emergency response infrastructure and services, anticipated for Massena Memorial Hospital, Louisville Company 2 and the Massena and Waddington rescue squads, with the amount to be determined by an ongoing study;

Improvements to an emergency access road to Wilson Hill Island in the town of Louisville and an evaluation of improving access to town property in the vicinity of the Iroquois Dam, part of the St. Lawrence-FDR project;

Annual financial support for the maintenance of identified roads in the vicinity of the hydroelectric plant that are used by NYPA for its operations;

Hiring of an independent recreational facility consultant to assess possible measures for increased recreational boating opportunities and fishing tournaments to support additional tourism, with NYPA committing up to $7.5 million for the improvements;

Additional funding of $1 million for a shoreline stabilization program for landowners adjacent to St. Lawrence-FDR within the towns of Waddington, Louisville and Massena, with elimination of current restrictions on the length and cost of the erosion mitigation initiatives, and

Working with the task force, the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and outdoor fishing clubs to identify additional opportunities to enhance walleye spawning in upstream tributaries of the St. Lawrence River.

The net earnings from the sale of up to 20 megawatts of hydropower will be used for awards to eligible businesses in St. Lawrence County through a Northern New York Economic Development Fund created by the act.

Under the legislation, the Northern New York Power Proceeds Allocation Board will make recommendations for how the power is allocated based on specific criteria, including capital investments and jobs.

The board will consist of five members who will be appointed by the governor. One will be appointed upon the recommendation of the temporary president of the state Senate and reside within St. Lawrence County, and one will be appointed upon the recommendation by the speaker of the Assembly and reside within St. Lawrence County. The other three will be appointed at the governor’s discretion, with at least one of them a resident of St. Lawrence County. The governor will name a chairman.

The primary role of the power allocation board is to solicit and review applications, and make funding recommendations to the NYPA board of trustees, which will consider the board’s recommendations and award grants as they are approved.

“Eligible projects” are those that support the growth of business in the state and thereby lead to the creation or maintenance of jobs and tax revenues for the state and local governments.

Under the legislation, examples of eligible projects include workforce development; energy-related projects, programs and services; capital investments in buildings, equipment and associated infrastructure, transportation projects under state or federally approved plans; the acquisition of land needed for infrastructure; research and development where the results of such research and development will directly benefit New York state and support for tourism and marketing and advertising efforts.

“This is a significant milestone for the area economy,” Gil C. Quiniones, NYPA president and chief executive officer, said in a news release. “The legislation is also consistent with the Power Authority’s efforts to identify further economic development opportunities, in connection with the 10-year review of the settlement agreement for the 2003 relicensing of the St. Lawrence hydroelectric plant.”

During the first five years of the act’s implementation, net earnings generated from the sale of up to 20 megawatts of hydropower into the wholesale electricity market will be available as a source of capital for qualified businesses. One megawatt is enough electricity to meet the needs of 800 to 1,000 typical homes, according to officials.

The 20 megawatts is drawn from hydropower previously sold to out-of-state electricity customers and redirected to New York state during the 2003 St. Lawrence-FDR project relicensing.

After five years of the law’s implementation, up to 10 megawatts of the unallocated power will be available for sale to generate funds. However, the power also may be allocated to eligible businesses instead of sold to generate revenue at any time.

 

By Amanda Purcell, Johnson Newspapers

2014 Class of 20 Under 40

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This year’s class of 20 Under 40 (click the recipient’s name to watch a video and read his or her profile):

 

 

An architect, a director of business development, communication professionals, a national sales and marketing manager, an educator, a financial planner, health care professionals, an information technology specialist, a transportation center director, a director of human resources, a loan officer, a pair of camp leaders, a director of operations and a few small business owners.

Our fourth annual 20 Under 40 class was the most competitive field yet, and these individuals represent a snapshot of Northern New York’s most accomplished, dedicated and involved young professionals, across a wide spectrum of industries, and across three counties.

All of these young men and women are involved in some shape or form in their community, whether by serving on an organization’s board, being a foster parent, serving in a youth leadership organization, or something as simple as helping to organize community 5K runs or making time to donate to food banks.

All of these leaders, who are between the ages of 22 and 39, were chosen not only by the editors and staff of NNY Business magazine, but by virtue of glowing recommendations from their peers and employers. And not only do these emerging leaders, who embody the prized north country values of compassion, hard work and selflessness, make time in hectic schedules to volunteer in the community, they give their very best in challenging career fields each and day, all out of an effort to make the place they have chosen to stay in and call home the very best place it can be.

Jill C. Winters, 35: New York Power Authority

 

Jill C. Winters says there’s no place like home. [Read more…]

NYPA allocates power for Potsdam, Gouverneur plants in another boost for St. Lawrence County

On the same day the north country learned 40 jobs will be created in a $21 million expansion of Corning’s Canton plant, St. Lawrence County received another economic shot in the arm when the New York Power Authority approved low-cost power allocations for two more manufacturers that will keep or add jobs with capital investments.

The allocations will go to Potsdam Specialty Paper and Riverside Iron, Gouverneur, under the ReCharge NY program, NYPA announced Tuesday. The low-cost power is expected to leverage an estimated $14.3 million in capital investments and support 79 jobs, 12 of which will be created.

“I think anytime we see power allocation in the county is a good thing, and to have three different areas, with Corning in the Canton area, Potsdam Paper and Riverside Iron in Gouverneur, is crucial,” said Patrick J. Kelly, CEO of the St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency. “These are also three different areas that are receiving this allocation. It is very beneficial to their operations and in turn a good thing for the county.”

Potsdam Specialty Paper, 547 Sissonville Road, will receive 2,116 kilowatts for its commitment to retain its 67 jobs and invest $14 million into its facility over the next five years. [Read more…]

NYPA gives OK to $2.2 million for Clarkson green data center

POTSDAM — Clarkson University will put an unused building back to work with the help of a $2.2 million grant from the New York Power Authority.

The grant will go toward renovating the Old Main building in downtown Potsdam to establish a green data center. The renovations will employ energy efficiency measures, including new windows and upgrades to plumbing and electrical systems.

“We’re creating a green building and a green data center,” said Anthony G. Collins, Clarkson University president. “So we’re getting a research and development benefit and putting a building back in use.”

The grant originally was given to the Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries, a non-profit, to build a new facility on the Hudson River at Dennings Point.

[Read more…]