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Posted: January 21, 2008

$300,000 spent seeking permit for Marcy nanotechnology site

(Nanowerk News) Securing a federal wetlands permit for the proposed nanotechnology site near SUNYIT won't come cheaply: The region's economic-development leaders have spent $300,000 in their still-unfinished quest.
Steven DiMeo, president of Mohawk Valley EDGE, told the O-D editorial board last week that he believes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is close to issuing the permit, which will enhance the site's value to potential high-tech tenants.
“I think we're there,” DiMeo said.
Marcy site's history
It's been seven years since Marcy town officials gave their backing to a zoning change allowing construction of a computer chip fabrication, or chip fab, plant on the site.
Since then, the Albany area has become a world leader in the field of nanotechnology - which is defined by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences as the design and production of extremely small electronic devices and circuits built from individual atoms and molecules.
  • In April 2001, Marcy officials approved rezoning for a 300-acre parcel near SUNYIT to make it suitable for a computer-chip fabrication, or “chip fab,” site. Mohawk Valley EDGE and state officials said landing such a company could provide the region with a significant economic boost.
  • In June 2006, the Marcy site was passed over by Advanced Micro Devices in favor of a larger site in Saratoga County for a production plant employing 1,200 people.
  • While the site has been touted by state and local economic development officials as “shovel-ready,” at least $18 million in work is needed to for infrastructure improvements that can't begin until the site receives a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wetlands permit.
  • Successful nanotechnology efforts farther down the Thruway have spurred officials here to put their efforts into luring a firm from that field.
    In 2006, Advanced Micro Devices spent time considering the Marcy site before choosing a location in Saratoga County to build a plant that will employ hundreds.
    Mohawk Valley officials learned from that experience that not having a federal wetlands permit presented a hurdle that an interested company would have to wait to clear.
    So in June 2006, Mohawk Valley EDGE began seeking the wetlands permit. The process has gone slowly, with about $300,000 spent on a variety of engineering, legal and other expenses.
    EDGE receives its funding from a variety of sources, both public and private. Recently, EDGE received $350,000 from National Grid for site preparation and marketing efforts involving the Marcy NanoCenter project.
    U.S. Rep. Michael Arcuri, D-Utica, responded to questions about the wetlands permit process in a written statement.
    “Mohawk Valley EDGE is working diligently to attain the necessary permits from the Army Corps of Engineers to break ground on a facility in Marcy,” Arcuri's statement reads. “As a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which has oversight authority of the Corps, I have facilitated numerous meetings and conference calls between Mohawk Valley EDGE and the Corps to move this process forward as expeditiously as possibly.”
    Calls to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Buffalo office to find out the status of the wetlands permit were not returned last week.
    SUNYIT President Peter Spina commended Mohawk Valley EDGE leaders for continuing to promote the nanotech site. It would mean a lot for the Utica area to have such a business located here, he said.
    'I don't know anything about the process other than it has taken a long time and it was incredibly bureaucratic,” Spina said. “One of the issues was that the Army Corps of Engineers kept saying to EDGE, 'Why don't you pick another site that doesn't have wetlands?'”
    “When you're dealing with a federal bureaucracy like the Army Corps of Engineers, they don't always turn an attentive ear to local issues,” Spina said.
    Spina said he's optimistic that the permit will come through and that an appropriate relationship will be worked out with EDGE as far as utilizing space at the campus.
    “We want to ensure that this is a community win-win,” Spina said, “not only for EDGE and the Mohawk Valley, but also for SUNYIT.”
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