By Raymond J. Durso, Jr., Genesis Group President/CEO
"THINGS WILL BE BETTER IN 2021"
The two biggest stories of 2020 were quite obvious, the Presidential Election and the Coronavirus. Both will go down as life-changing and life-altering events. We all know the impact of the pandemic on people's lives and businesses was catastrophic. There is one positive message that continues throughout this challenging time, and it's that we need to appreciate life, who we are and all that we have to be thankful for. Life can change in a minute – as it certainly did this year.
Our new President will be met with enormous tasks. He will also have an incredible opportunity to change the nation and the world.
I believe that life will continue to change for all of us in the New Year. While we'll still experience some ups and downs, 2021 offers opportunities for us to grow as individuals, a community and a nation. Starting now, I encourage you to have a plan for the coming year, set your goals, your strategies and be ready to adapt, and to seize your moments to make good things happen.
This past year, The Genesis Group reached a milestone, celebrating 20 years in 2020. The Genesis Group continues to unite individuals and organizations dedicated to adaptive leadership to meet new challenges and create positive impacts for our towns, villages and cities. Genesis will continue to be a trusted voice that advocates for and partners with those seeking positive transformation. Our work will continue in the areas of Education, Healthcare, Economic and Community Development, Agriculture, Insurance, Banking and Finance and with many more quality of life projects. Going forward, we all need to hit the “refresh button” and re-charge our batteries. The Genesis Group has done that. With the guidance and support of our Board of Trustees, we have identified our goals for 2021. We've updated our Strategic Plan and by using adaptive leadership, Genesis will set forth on its agenda and remain aligned with the needs of the community. For Genesis, things will be better in the New Year. We've developed a new structure for our organization. We now have a (4) Component Plan to deliver on our mission. These components include:
C-1 Organizing events like community forums and recognition programs,
C-2 Providing outreach opportunities using our weekly Our View opinion page, offering tours of local businesses and attractions and educating residents and visitors about our region's history,
C-3 The development of the recently announced “Genesis Center” - A Catalyst for Excellence and Research in Data Analytics. This initiative will: inform our community about the pivotal role of Data Analytics in our daily lives now and into our future; increase the amount of jobs in the field of Data Analytics and Quantitative Analysis; increase the number of students interested in studying Data Analytics and Quantitative Analysis at area schools and colleges; conduct research projects with local businesses using data analytics to identify their needs and to work collaboratively to meet them.
C-4 will be a new program that's designed to assist the needs of area small businesses and small not-for-profit organizations. This program will launch in the first quarter of 2021.
For 20 years, our focus hasn't changed; it's all about the community's agenda! We still believe that from Oneida to Little Falls, Old Forge to Cooperstown, Rome, Utica and Herkimer and everywhere in between that we are much stronger as a region when we work together. In the New Year, we will be better too! As this tumultuous year comes to an end, let us remember with reverence those that have been lost, while celebrating the blessings that remain and looking forward to better days ahead.
By Senator Joseph Griffo
"Looking for Normalcy during Abnormal Times"
At the beginning of the year, I had originally quipped that the year 2020 could provide us with 2020 vision. However, that all changed rapidly, and 2020 quickly turned into a fuzzy, challenging and disruptive time. When I’m asked to describe 2020 now, “abnormal” is the first word to come to mind. Merriam-Webster defines “abnormal” as “deviating from the normal or average” and “unusual in an unwelcome or problematic way.” I can’t think of a better description for 2020 than that.
Yes, these are unusual, unwelcome and unimaginable times, and there is no doubt that COVID-19 has caused significant challenges for individuals, families, small business owners, schools, local governments and many more. I see and hear about these struggles everyday throughout the 47th Senate District, and my office continues to help those seeking unemployment benefits, clarification on reopening guidance or answers to questions related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Our lives have dramatically and drastically changed. Activities that were once considered normal occurrences – going out to dinner, gathering with friends and family in person to celebrate a holiday or special occasion and even getting a haircut – have been upended by COVID-19. Mask wearing, social distancing and hand sanitizer have now become a necessary way of life. Sadly, we have experienced a heartbreaking, tragic loss of life as a result of the pandemic. Behind every number is a name and a life that must be acknowledged and should be remembered.
There has been some good that has arisen from this problematic time. I am encouraged and inspired by all the extraordinary health care professionals, first responders, essential workers and other New Yorkers who go to work every day despite a significant threat to their own lives and that of their families. Businesses, restaurants, schools, families and others have continued to show remarkable adaptability, innovation and toughness during this challenging period. I appreciate the courage and commitment of our local leaders who have helped to guide us through these difficult times.
However, the pandemic unfortunately also has led to more division. We have seen a rise in baseless conspiracy theories, the dangerous spread of misinformation and animosity and contempt for those who may not agree with us. The sniping, bickering and chest thumping that we have witnessed on social media and elsewhere doesn’t help or resolve our crisis.
COVID-19 is an ever changing, unpredictable and inconspicuous threat. While we have seen good in people, I’ve seen far too many of my fellow citizens who are unwilling to undertake personal sacrifice for the common good. We have before us the rare opportunity to come together as a nation, as we did following the Sept. 11 terrorists attacks, and for that matter as a global community. This is a chance to unite under a common cause and fight to eradicate an invisible, common enemy. We must not squander this objective.
I understand how easy it is to become depressed, disheartened and discouraged as we continue to make our way through this public health crisis. We have witnessed COVID fatigue, the COVID blues and what I call COVIDxiety, or the apprehension about what will or could happen next. We’re all looking for the light at the end of the tunnel - which may be getting brighter with the development of several vaccines and the availability of newer therapeutic treatments - and the opportunity to return to normal. That time will come.
First, we have to make our way through this new abnormal. We can do that by slowing down, enjoying the simple things and rediscovering the bright spots in our lives that have always been there but may have dimmed during the craziness of the pandemic. They might be difficult to find, but signs of normalcy are out there. As we strive for normalcy in our lives, I hope that we recall the essence of Christmas – good will, peace and hope - and that everyone experiences a safe, happy and healthier new year.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------By Assemblyman Brian Miller
WITH 2020 IN THE REARVIEW, WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2021
It’s no secret that this year has been a struggle like any other, and on so many different levels. Since March, so much has been made about my health after a long and difficult battle with COVID-19. All I can say to New Yorkers is: I know there have been many inconvenience’s created by this virus, but I truly believe they are worth it if they keep you and those you love healthy and safe. I was very nearly taken away from my loved ones and I am eternally grateful to the nurses, doctors and other medical professionals who got me healthy again and back home. Take what they have to say seriously and consider that minor inconveniences may save lives.
Aside from my own personal struggle with sickness, hundreds-of-thousands are dealing with COVID-19 in our state and tens-of-thousands have died from it; thousands of jobs have been lost; families have lost nearly everything with their main source of income gone; the quality of the education our children are receiving has suffered; businesses have been forced to close their doors for good; state funding sources dried up in an instant and it is long past time that the state Legislature take back the power to approve policies that directly affect our residents.
2020 has been bleak, to say the least. Even the normal joys of life that lift our spirits during difficult times have essentially been taken away: birthdays, holidays, graduations, proms and so much more. All of this having been said I believe there is hope – a light at the end of the tunnel. But with that hope there must also be patience and understanding. As at least two different pharmaceutical companies are closing in on the mass production of vaccines for COVID-19 we may finally an end to all of this struggle, but I cannot truly say how long it will be or what that ending will look like.
As far as the vaccines are concerned, at first, there clearly will not be enough for everyone, and not everyone will be willing to take a new vaccine and that is understandable. I know some are concerned about the state mandating that residents receive the vaccine and I want to be clear that my understanding is that is not the case. For those who want the vaccine but may not be able to get it right away: be patient.
For those out of work, I believe the hardest thing to hear right now is “be patient” and the last person you want to hear that from is a politician or elected official. To those who are struggling I will say I will do everything I can to get you and your family the assistance you need, and I believe my colleagues will do the same. I do not consider myself a partisan individual and this is certainly not a partisan issue. We must work together to provide aid to those who need it most.
Even after vaccines are released and they are widely available, life will not return to “normal” as quickly as we hope. The economy will not bounce back in an instant. Again, be patient, but there is something you can do to help. As many of you have done throughout this ordeal, continue to support local small businesses as much as possible to provide a boost to the local economy and to keep money and jobs local.
The most difficult issue the state will face is locating funds to provide much needed, essential services to our residents. This is where understanding will be needed the most. This will not be easy, it will not be pretty, and I do not believe anyone will be happy with funding levels.
Please understand that hundreds-of-millions-of-dollars in tax revenue disappeared in an instant when this pandemic struck and forced the state into a shutdown. Those funds that New York State relies on to provide key programs, keep our roads safe and passable, provide a quality education for our children, keep government up and running and much more are no longer readily available. The challenge now facing the state Legislature and the governor is how to provide our residents with everything they need and how to boost our economy so that we can recover with such a daunting deficit looming.
I have been calling for the state to take a very hard look at areas of wasteful spending in our budget for years. There is no more important time than now for that to be done. I have witnessed partisan agendas forced through the Legislature with reckless abandon and I have seen both sides successfully work together for the good of our state. Now is the time for the latter. Prioritizing the needs of so many in such a trying time will undoubtedly be the most difficult task any members of our state Legislature have ever faced.
In that light, I encourage all of our residents to reach out to me and other elected officials to have their voice hear. Let us know what is hurting you the most. Let us know what you believe will help you the most in your daily life. Please also understand that as hard as we can and must work to turn the tide, we cannot get blood from a stone. This will be difficult, and I believe it will be nearly impossible to pass a budget without cuts to funding levels. In the past the state has made up budget deficits on the backs of the hardworking middle-class with millions in tax increases. I have not supported that in the past, and I will not support it now. I will not pile on to the heavy burden our residents are already facing.
Without a massive bailout from the federal government, the only scenario that seems plausible is that the state will need to reduce spending. At best, funding levels may be flat compared to last year. This is not desirable and will not be easy, but we are facing a tough road ahead. So, again I ask for patience and understanding from our residents. We will do everything we can. To my fellow legislators and our leadership, I ask for common sense, compassion, and togetherness to bring about the best possible solution to the issue we are facing.
2020 has been difficult. 2021 may not be the instant turnaround many are hoping for when the clock strikes midnight on January 1, but I do believe there is reason to be hopeful. I wish everyone a safe, happy and healthy holiday season and I hope for a new year that is full of reasons for New Yorkers to smile once again.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------By Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon
This year, our communities have faced challenges nobody could have ever predicted as the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged our world and disrupted our lives. Unfortunately, we’re not out of the woods yet. As we continue to combat this global health crisis, the Mohawk Valley must innovate and seek out new ideas and partnerships in order to keep our families safe and uphold some of our most crucial institutions, including education, health care and local governments.
While our area continued to face daunting challenges and hardships this year, I worked to sponsor several pieces of legislation to help our communities navigate through the pandemic. I created a bill that would provide credit to bars and restaurants on their next liquor license as compensation for the loss of business as a result of the pandemic (A.10563-A), and sponsored a bill to offer temporary early retirement incentives for some public employees to prevent layoffs and save taxpayer money (A.10897). As COVID-19 placed a heavy strain on our education system, placing additional pandemic expenses on their shoulders and significant cuts to state funding, I reached out to the State Education Department (SED) and urged them to allow school districts to receive transportation aid for expenses incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure these additional operating costs did not set back our already struggling school districts any further.In addition, I sent a letter to the governor requesting that the state’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding be used to support health care staffing. The COVID-19 pandemic has completely overwhelmed our state’s health care facilities and, with the number of cases increasing by the day, we must address longstanding issues of recruitment and retention of staff in the health care industry. Health care workers are on the frontlines of this pandemic and have made enormous sacrifices to protect their fellow New Yorkers. It’s critical that the state provide additional support to the heroes who helped save lives during our time of need. Though COVID-19 is the most pressing issue before us, my work for the Mohawk Valley does not stop here. The long-term economic stability of our region depends on the degree to which our businesses can participate in the global marketplace. To help with that integration, I proposed a bill to amend the executive law in relation to the length of time the governor can order a state disaster emergency declaration without the communication between parties affected by the suspension of laws during a state disaster emergency (A.10502). To better protect our families from crime, I sponsored legislation to criminalize the unlawful dissemination of a personal image and establish a right of private action for such offenses (A.11093). I also introduced a bill that would criminalize the theft of a catalytic converter and impose restrictions on the sale and possession of catalytic converters by vehicle dismantlers (A.11160).
As we enter the new year, I’ll continue listening to your concerns and always put the interests of Mohawk Valley families first. In return, I ask that everyone come together on all levels and look out for one other so that we may overcome our challenges and build a brighter future for us all. There’s no question this year has been very difficult for everyone, and I would like to thank all of you for your efforts in fighting this pandemic and for the sacrifices you’ve made for your fellow neighbors. I wish you and your loved ones good health and safety in the year to come. God Bless.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------By Assemblyman Robert Smullen
WITH FAITH IN SCIENCE, WE WILL PREVAIL
When the countdown reaches zero on New Year’s Eve, our state and nation will breathe a sigh of relief as 2020 finally concludes. This is a year we could not have possibly imagined. With little forethought, our lives were locked down for most of the year, as many became ill, our medical system was stressed and small businesses were forced to shut their doors. However, amidst this virus crisis which caused great economic damage, hope for a vaccine gave many of us the strength to believe.Now, our scientific efforts have finally come to a positive result. The vaccine is here and is being distributed on a priority basis. Personally, I am going to take the vaccine when it is my turn. I encourage my constituents to do the same but, to be clear, I am against citizens being forcibly vaccinated for the coronavirus. We must look to herd immunity first before making any decisions that take our liberty without reasonWhen 2021 does begin, our future as Americans will again be bright. Our scientific establishment was able to create a vaccine from scratch in less than a year to fight this deadly virus. We should all be immensely proud to be from a country with the resources and ability to make this happen. I trust that the vaccine will be safe and am thankful to God to live in such an exceptional place.
That is because as Americans, we are a justifiably proud people. We believed that we were going to make it out of 2020. We may have needed an extra bit of faith, but we are always going to be resilient. Our economy is going to rebound when fully reopened. Our small businesses that have carried a heavy burden these past nine months will be a free market. And even the divided federal government is finally in agreement in distributing aid to the states, which will help our people who need it. This allocation should be directly delivered to towns and schools to help rebuild as quickly and efficiently as possible.
So, we welcome 2021 with open arms. We are excited to see what the New Year will bring, but we know that we must have faith in our future. The past year has taught us many lessons, and at high speed the vaccine is here in time for the holidays. Let’s hope that we remain resilient and eager to improve for ourselves and our posterity.
Here’s to wishing everyone a healthy and happy holiday season, and a joyous New Year!
By Anthony J. Picente, Jr., Oneida County Executive
It is fair to say that not since a time of war have people been wishing for a better new year than the one that just ended. Although many challenges remain, we do see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel in a vaccine that we have long awaited. Until then we will continue to work tirelessly to reduce the scourge that this virus has wrought.
As we enter the New Year we need to remember the many lives lost from this pandemic, here at home and across the globe. All taken too soon, no matter what their age, their very being taken away by an unseen enemy that strikes all ages simply from the air we breathe. While there is nothing that can bring them back we must honor their memories by doing all we can to eradicate the virus and return to normalcy.
All of who have been on the front lines during this time deserve and continue to be given our sincere appreciation. Health care workers will need more resources and increased recruitment in a workforce that faced severe challenges before the pandemic. Businesses that have continued with great sacrifice and struggles need our support and will require great assistance as they pick up the pieces of a lost economy. Students will have even greater challenges as the loss of interaction with each other and their teachers continue to take its toll on their educational and societal growth. These and many more areas will need all of our attention and ideas as we recover from the year we will forever remember.
Much of what we do in the early days of 2021 will be focused on education and distribution of the vaccine. We must assure all of its safety and urgency as well as its access to all who desire it. After months of death and illness and shutdowns, to ignore the one thing that can return us to the world we knew would not only be foolish but equally fatal. County government will be poised to do whatever is needed in this arena. We will work, as we have, with State government and all of our health care entities in any way necessary to get our community vaccinated.
As we seek to rebuild our economy we need to focus on what the promise of 2020 was before the world changed. The signature projects of our transformation that continued during this time; the state of the art hospital project, CREE, SKYDOME, and ORGILL will all have a major impact on our rebuilding. We must see that they continue and in the case of CREE and ORGILL work with them to fill the jobs our community desperately needs.
Reconnect Oneida County seeks to attract work at home professionals who previously called our community home. We will work with local “ambassadors” to reach out and refresh their memories of the quality of life and opportunity that Oneida County offers all. In 2021 we will begin our marketing and outreach for what we believe will be a great tool in the growth of our county.
The recent budget proposed by me and passed by the Board of Legislators held the line on taxes for the eighth straight year. While that is an accomplishment to be proud of we know that 2021 will present us with an economy that will need a significant uptick to recover the losses of 2020. Strong fiscal management and discipline got us through the hard part of this crisis. We will need much more to move us through the New Year.
While we begin Reconnect we will also focus on rebuilding and assisting our local business community that have faced monumental losses. In the first quarter of 2021 I will convene a summit of business leaders and elected officials from every level of government. The first order will be to listen. Not to those of us in office but to the businesses. We need to hear from them their challenges and their needs to rebuild and restore their livelihoods and our economy. RESTORE Oneida County will look at measures that we can do locally to assist and relieve business of obstacles that are in the way of rebuilding. While we may be limited in scope, we must look at every area that each level of government has at their disposal to assist our business community.
We continue to hold out hope that a true stimulus package to assist the state and county governments, who have been burdened the most during this pandemic, will arrive.
In conclusion, our goal for 2021 is simple, achieving it will take hard work and collaboration. It will take partnership and working together like never before. We have done so in other difficult times and we can do so again. The goal? That 2021 is not 2020.
My best wishes for a happier and certainly healthier New Year.
By John J. Piseck, Jr., Executive Director, Herkimer County Industrial Development Agency
As Covid-19 cases reach record highs and the threat of another shutdown looms over the Herkimer County/Mohawk Valley Region, it’s imperative that we work together to protect the health and welfare of our families, friends, co-workers and neighbors and minimize any further economic damage caused by the pandemic. However, it is also incumbent upon our region’s civic, business and community leaders to look ahead to the post-Covid world.
It’s widely acknowledged that the pandemic will have lasting economic consequences that will change where and how we live, work and recreate. Although the extent is still to be determined, we must be willing to acknowledge that this new normal will require us to once and for all break from upholding the status quo and take the proactive and meaningful steps to achieve economic growth. We must create stronger, more resilient neighborhoods, and a much more robust regional economy. While there are a number of ways to accomplish this, I strongly believe that the following suggestions are necessary if we want to build a more progressive, vibrant Herkimer County/Mohawk Valley Region:
It is essential that we make substantial public and private investments in our villages, towns, and city and create more quality, affordable housing, and small business development. In order to accomplish this, financial institutions must increase access to capital for underserved populations, entrepreneurs and small businesses seeking to invest in economically distressed communities. We must also embrace and invest in innovative and nationally proven pathways that will build generational wealth and create more stable neighborhoods. Brownfield development will serve to entice those leaving large cities to relocate to an area that can offer something similar to what they left, without the negative aspects of a large area.
We must plan and build for the communities that we want, rather than just try and maintain the communities that we have. This pandemic has forced changes that will shift the traditional, rural live/work model that has shaped the Mohawk Valley Region for decades. This paradigm shift will require that we strive to create an environment that can meet the reality of the post-Covid world and allow us to stay competitive. The desire to become an area that provides services and entertainment within walking distance, opportunities for recreation and sustainability should be more of a necessity than a long range goal. Food processing must include local markets and support our area farmers and infrastructure systems will require upgrades and investments to sustain the communities that develop. Anticipating the global economic forces of change and harnessing them to our benefit is much more productive than resisting them. The potential for new sources of federal funding are promising, however we will need to rely on our own county/region to spur growth and provide ways for further economic development. I recently outlined a program where NYS would become the initial customer to new processors and guarantee a percentage of what the buy (for example beef) to the processor in lieu of a grant.
Finally, we must pursue the ideas described by continuing to identify ourselves as a cohesive region. This will require bold leadership and a rejection of outdated local politics that provide little incentive for supporting transformative regional projects. Great communities don’t just happen; we must make them happen. Fortunately, our area is home to an impressive and growing number of civic leaders, planners, entrepreneurs, developers and artists who aren’t afraid to be creative and reach across invisible boundaries to collaborate to get things done.
As always, real change must begin at the local level, ensuring that all parts of the Herkimer County/Mohawk Valley Region remain competitive, thriving and vibrant in the post-pandemic era. Although we have been through a tough year, the opportunities in front of us are exciting, challenging and meaningful. I am looking forward to working with all involved!
By Rome Mayor Jacqeline Izzo
It is an understatement that 2020 will go down as one of the most challenging years in our nation’s history. Locally, we have not been spared the ferocious nature of the coronavirus, but as we look forward to 2021 we have reason to hope for a better future. Operation Warp Speed promised a vaccine by years end and miraculously vaccinations of frontline healthcare workers began last weekend.Despite the various challenges incurred for much of 2020 due to the changing landscape associated with the virus, our economy has remained very steady throughout this crisis. We were very fortunate to have had major construction projects vetted and ready to proceed as the virus took its grip on the region.
The Griffiss Business and Technology Park continues to be a regional economic driver. An almost 1,000,000 square foot distribution center has risen on the former Skyline housing site. Orgill, Inc., is employing many, many workers at this site which will service their northeast markets. Construction will continue on this multimillion dollar project into 2021 as they ramp up towards employment of 225 people. Innovare, an open campus collaborative space supporting Rome Laboratory, recently opened under the guidance of SUNY Research Foundation and Griffiss Institute. Oneida County has invested over $12 million dollars to renovate Building 100 and work progresses on an incredibly impressive indoor drone test facility, SkyDome. AirCity Lofts is nearing completion of Phase 1 and began renting market rate apartments in mid November. Soon, the commercial spaces will be filled bringing the first mixed use residential/commercial facility to the Griffiss Park. Building on the success of Phase 1, Bonacio Construction recently began foundation work for Phase 2, featuring 74 more market rate apartments with beautiful views of the Griffiss Runway and 26,000 square feet of commercial space.
Diversifying housing options to meet workforce demand is taking shape throughout the city. DePaul Properties completed DeWitt Clinton Apartments in South Rome adding over 60 apartments and 20 townhouse units. Delta Luxury is putting the finishing touches on 16 more market rate apartments, bringing the total to 64 units, in North Rome. Our real estate market remains robust with houses selling at a very fast pace.
We welcomed a new addition to our grocery market with the opening of Hannaford’s over the summer. The store fills a long-time void for North Rome and is quickly becoming an anchor for the W. Chestnut Street to Floyd Avenue corridor.
We continue to entertain developers who have shown a renewed interest in our city and region over the past few years, and we are looking forward to a rebounding business climate along with a strengthening economy as we work our way back to normal from the pandemic.
By Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri
2020 was historic, challenging and unprecedented. Hundreds of thousands of American’s have died due to the Coronavirus pandemic and millions are experiencing economic hardship. State and local governments are not immune to the negative fiscal impacts of the pandemic. As such, my Administration, in collaboration with City Comptroller Bill Morehouse and the Common Council, took the following proactive action to protect the city’s financial position; Reduced spending of daily operations Decreased major capital purchases by 75% Instituted a hiring freeze for all vacant positions Temporarily eliminated 80% of part-time employees Reduced non-essential overtime Reduced salary of several part-time employees Sought voluntary furlough for certain full-time positions Issued an early retirement incentive program for CSEA members and nonunion employees The City of Utica was experiencing transformational development prior to the Coronavirus outbreak, and while these measures were necessary; continued economic development is the key to overcoming the setbacks brought forth by the pandemic. Despite the pandemic, major projects in the city are moving forward such as the downtown medical campus, development of Harbor Point, as well as construction of the new Utica Fitness Mill and a 150-unit housing project at Globe Mill in west Utica. My Administration recently announced the redevelopment of the former Utica Steam Cotton Factory in downtown which will provide attractive commercial space and an exciting opportunity for local businesses to relocate and expand. In addition, the city moved forward on one of its major initiatives, the purchasing of street lights from National Grid. Despite the pandemic, nearly two-thirds of the city’s street lights have been converted to LED with the remaining lights expected to be converted by spring 2021. This project will save the city money, while upgrading our infrastructure and reducing greenhouse emissions. We are fortunate these initiatives and projects are coming to fruition, but at the onset of the pandemic it was clear our existing businesses would face tremendous struggles just to survive. To address this reality and provide the assistance our businesses deserved, I directed the City’s Economic Development staff to shift their focus and city resources to the retention of Utica businesses and their employees. As a result, over $300,000 in funding was allocated to 33 existing businesses within the City of Utica that agreed to retain their low-to moderate-income employees for up to eight weeks during the first few months of the pandemic. While business and employment retention was a priority and an important component of our plan, in order for neighborhoods to thrive residents must also have stability and peace of mind when it comes to their housing. Working collaboratively with community partners, we were able to utilize funding, secured by our federal representatives, to provide $1 million in assistance to both renters and homeowners who have been impacted by the pandemic and are unable to pay their rent or mortgage. This year also shed light on racial inequality and prompted soul searching throughout the country. We are a warm and welcoming community, and while there is certainly room to improve, I am proud of how the Utica Police Department has built bridges with minority communities. My Administration will continue to work with all willing partners to improve dialogue and race relations in Utica as I believe we can be model for the nation. In reflecting on 2020, there are divisions in our country along racial, geographic, religious, economic and generational lines, among others. Regardless of these divisions, I still believe we have far more in common as American brothers and sisters. In looking to 2021, I’m hopeful that we can come together for the greater good and stop demonizing those we disagree with but rather listen, learn and grow.
By Steven J. DiMeo, President Mohawk Valley EDGE
This past year the COVID pandemic dominated media headlines and has been at the forefront of our national politics and dominated the world’s healthcare policy. COVID also created strong economic headwinds that have significantly impacted the global economy and poses significant challenges in regaining our economic momentum.
The hardest hit industry sectors locally and in the United States have been retail, tourism, travel, entertainment, and hospitality. Major financial impacts have also been felt by state and local government, healthcare, and higher education all of which have been financially stressed. The economic impact caused by COVID may take several years to overcome, but one outcome that is likely to remain by COVID is the shift to remote work, more virtual meetings and conferences, and the continued decline in brick-and-mortar retail as online commerce continues to grow. These trends are having a dramatic impact on Main Street commerce, suburban retail, conferences and events, and commercial office markets.
COVID has rightfully focused public attention on curtailing the impacts of the virus and the challenges it has on public health and in re-starting our regional economy. However, it is important to note the transformative investments that are positively shaping the region’s economic outlook and providing reasons for renewed optimism about the region’s future. The most visible evidence of the region’s positive economic outlook is evidenced by the $2 billion in new public-private investments taking place within the region. Our region has not seen this level of investment since the end of WWII.
If not for COVID, 2020 might have been known as the year that construction cranes dominated the Oneida County’s skyline as evidenced by key game-changing economic development initiatives such as:
Construction of the Cree | Wolfspeed 200 mm Silicon Carbide (SiC) semiconductor facility
MVHS’ development of its new regional downtown healthcare facility
Continued growth of Griffiss Business and Technology Park
In April, Cree | Wolfspeed commenced construction on its $1.2 billion state-of-the art semiconductor facility. Total construction jobs are expected to peak at more than 800 jobs (most of which will occur between now and end of Q1 2021) as construction activity focuses on the interior build-out of the cleanroom and central utility buildings.
Construction is expected to be substantially completed by Q2 next year and Cree | Wolfspeed will then begin to install tools and commission the facility. Production of SiC semiconductors for customers will begin in 2022.
Cree | Wolfspeed is in the “pole position” within key parts of the power electronics market – particularly with the emerging markets for electric vehicles and the growth of 5G technology. Electric vehicles and 5G are major growth sectors and Cree | Wolfspeed ’s Mohawk Valley FAB will be the world’s largest 200 mm SiC semiconductor facility and positions the Mohawk Valley as being a critical part of the Silicon Carbide power electronics east coast corridor.
Cree | Wolfspeed is expected to create 614 direct jobs, with additional jobs being created through supply chain firms that will follow Cree. To date, Cree | Wolfspeed has 45 permanent hires, most of whom temporarily located at SUNY Poly’s Albany campus where the company is qualifying its processes on the SiC tool set that will be relocated to Cree | Wolfspeed ’s Mohawk Valley FAB. The company has job postings for another 31 positions for its Mohawk Valley FAB and is targeting 270 permanent jobs by 2023, and 614 hires by 2029.
The Marcy site is well positioned for additional growth with planned development of approximately 150,000 square feet of flex space to attract supply chain companies to serve Cree | Wolfspeed, Danfoss and future end-users at Marcy Nanocenter. In addition to Cree | Wolfspeed, the Danfoss Silicon Power facility at SUNY Poly’s Marcy campus expects to begin ramping its packaging center to support power modules for the automotive market. FSMC has invested in major power upgrades in the electrical infrastructure to support this growth.
Marcy Nanocenter can accommodate additional semiconductor and advanced electronics uses with another 1-million square feet of cleanroom space in addition to a second fab for Cree | Wolfspeed. EDGE and its partners have built out the infrastructure at the Marcy site to support additional growth from this global industry and we are actively marketing Marcy Nanocenter making this site among the most development ready site in the United States.
Downtown Utica’s skyline is undergoing dramatic changes with the construction of the $548 million MVHS downtown healthcare center that will provide modern, state-of-the-art healthcare services for the region. Construction is underway and the new downtown hospital is expected to open by mid-2023.
MVHS’ new hospital solidifies downtown’s economic transformation and creates additional opportunities to support adaptive reuse opportunities to make downtown a 24/7 neighborhood. A prime example of the simulative impact from the downtown hospital project are recent plans announced for the former Utica Steam Cotton Factory Building, directly adjacent to MVHS’ hospital development. This 92,000 square foot former cold storage warehouse facility is to be redeveloped for commercial and residential uses that will continue downtown’s revitalization.
Griffiss Business and Technology Park celebrated its 25th anniversary as a major hub of regional employment in 2020 and saw $140 million in new public and private investment take place. Griffiss remains a vital part of Upstate’s economy and is expected to grow to over 6,000 jobs by next year.
Development of Air City Lofts is just one of the development initiatives taking place at Griffiss. This $40 million investment includes 156 units of planned upper floor market rate apartments and 46,000 SF of ground floor commercial space. Air City provides an important amenity that supports talent attraction efforts for Griffiss and other local employers and is creating a live-work-play neighborhood that anchors Griffiss and Rome’s Floyd Avenue corridor.
Orgill commenced construction of its northeast distribution center at Griffiss, which will create 225 jobs. This 780,000 SF facility is expected to be completed and ready of occupancy by June 2021 and reinforces the region’s competitive position to support logistics, distribution and fulfillment center growth, which will continue to be a growing market.
Other key investments at Griffiss this past year includes M.A. Polce’s expansion of its IT facility, and construction of a 44,000 SF technology building that will support expansions by two home-grown high-tech companies, that are part of the C4 I and cyber ecosystem that supports the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL).
A strategic investment that anchors the C4 I and cyber ecosystem is the Innovare Advancement Center. Innovare is a collaborative effort between AFRL, Griffiss Institute, Oneida County and SUNY Poly to facilitate research and development, STEM education and technology transfer initiatives in areas of quantum computing, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. These technologies are growing areas within AFRL’s technology portfolio and make AFRL’s Information Directorate plays a critical role in overseeing the Air Force’s investment in these areas. Plans are also underway to develop Skydome at Griffiss International Airport to expand the Griffiss UAS Test Site and continue the region’s role in helping to spur integration of commercial airspace for UAS platforms and autonomous technologies.
2020 saw several major employers undertake investments that support growth. Indium, S.R. Sloan, Briggs and Stratton, the Matt Brewing Company, and Northland Communications continue to invest and grow in Oneida County. Kris Tech is expanding in Rome with its One Pull Solutions for Wire and Cable, Inc. subsidiary. Cold Point is nearing completion of a new 50,000 SF manufacturing facility on a brownfield site in Rome. The Herkimer County Industrial Development Agency (HCIDA) is expanding the Schuyler Business Park with a 188-acre development to support local business expansion and attraction efforts.
There will be ongoing economic challenges as we emerge from the COVID-induced economic recession. Small businesses have borne the brunt of the recession and many can ill afford a prolonged loss of economic activity. It also remains to be seen how quickly our major employers like State and local governments, healthcare and higher education can overcome declines in revenues caused by the pandemic. 2021 will provide a glimpse into how quickly we can see improvements in these key segments of our regional economy, which are an essential part of the underpinnings for sustained recovery.
As 2020 draws to a close we remain cautiously optimistic that the worst of COVID will begin to fade and that 2021 marks the end of personal and community-wide isolation and despair that we have endured for most of the past year. We hope to see the return of the civic interactions that creates vibrancy and breathes life into our communities. Next year will be an opportunity to not only rejoice as the worst of COVID recedes but begin to celebrate the region’s economic renewal.