New York looks to high-tech companies to boost upstate region
New York City isn’t the only part of the state that has been attracting a growing number of high-tech companies.
In upstate areas struggling to rebound from the recession and recover from the longer-term decline in manufacturing, the state has been recruiting companies like Yahoo! and IBM to add or expand operations, create new jobs and assist in rebuilding the economy.
“Under Gov. Cuomo, the development of a job-creating technology sector has been a major focus,” said Kenneth Adams, president and CEO of Empire State Development and the governor’s economic development commissioner. “Gov. Cuomo’s leadership has been instrumental in transforming New York into the nation’s premier location for high-tech companies to invest in growing their business, creating jobs and developing the new technologies that will drive our economy forward.”
As an example, Adams pointed to the governor’s successful efforts in securing $4.4 billion in investments through a new consortium at the University of Albany’s nanotechnology center. Cuomo’s regional economic development councils, which he set up to identify and strategically target key regional projects across the state, also have supported projects like the University of Rochester’s new Health Sciences Center for Computational Innovation.
“Both are evidence of his commitment to establishing New York as the fastest-growing tech sector in America,” Adams said.
Cuomo, IBM and University of Rochester officials recently opened the new Health Sciences Center facility, a project funded in part by $5 million in state economic development funds. The facility aims to use cutting-edge computational power to solve complex health-care problems, and houses the Blue Gene/Q, IBM’s next-generation supercomputer, making the university one of the nation’s five most powerful university-based supercomputing sites.
The state cited estimates from the Center for Governmental Research that the center could create 900 jobs in the community and spur $205 million in new research funding over the next decade.
Yet another computer-based tech project in the works is the Marist College Cloud Computing Center, a project partnering with IBM that was named as a priority project by the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council this year. Project awards are expected to be announced in December.
Of course, the upstate high-tech push didn’t start with Cuomo. While David Paterson was governor, for example, state Sen. George Maziarz helped persuade Yahoo! to build a data center just down the road from his district office.
Maziarz said the construction of the building alone created plenty of good jobs for a lot of electricians, and more jobs could be coming soon, as the company has purchased additional property and is looking to expand.
The senator said his district is uniquely suited to the needs of Yahoo!—and other high-tech companies, potentially, as well. The Internet company’s data center in Lockport has a vast amount of electronic equipment running nonstop, which generates a great deal of heat and must be cooled continuously.
“One thing they’ve found is that up here in upstate New York, you can literally open the window six months of the year and you get all the cold air you want,” Maziarz said. “Some of these things use cold water for cooling, others use cold air for cooling, and what they do a major part of the years is they basically transfer the outside air in to do the cooling. In other words, they don’t have to air condition the unit.”
The company, which has about 100 jobs at the Lockport location, also happens to be located within 30 miles of the Niagara Power Project and thus has been able to get additional low-cost hydropower.
“They just had a job fair there,” Maziarz said. “They’re recruiting more people. We’ve partnered with the local community college to teach and train the type of students that they want there. And they’re hiring people, which is great.”
Not that every project is so successful. Last year Verizon scrapped plans to build a multibillion-dollar data center in Somerset, despite the promise of low-cost hydropower and tax breaks. The company cited delays in getting the project off the ground.
Still, Maziarz is optimistic that other companies will follow Yahoo!’s lead and expand in upstate New York.
“These companies, they like to cluster,” Maziarz said. “Google, Verizon, all of them. You know, we’ve got assets. We’re going to promote it.”