Buildings could start going up at the Western New York Science, Technology, and Advanced Manufacturing Park in rural Genesee County within a year. But not everyone is thrilled about the park's location.
The 1,250-acre complex will be located in the Town of Alabama, northwest of Batavia, in an area blanketed with farms and protected wild areas. Government and economic development officials envision the park as a job-creating nanotech hub that'll benefit the Rochester and Buffalo areas. The park will be a 25-minute drive from Buffalo and a 40-minute drive from Rochester.
"This is a transformational opportunity for the region," said Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle during last week's meeting of the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council.
But members of Empire State Future, a statewide smart growth advocacy group, say that while the jobs will benefit the region, the park's far-flung location is a net loss.
Group members say the park will be an example of an inefficient location. It will mean more water lines, more power lines, and more roads to maintain, says Evan Lowenstein, a Rochester smart-growth advocate and Empire State Future member. The organization wants to see industrial sites located in existing community cores, he says, which often have underused industrial land.
"The sad truth is that we don't have the funding to maintain the infrastructure we already have," Lowenstein says.
The 2014-15 state budget sets aside $33 million for the park. Genesee County's economic development agency will use the funds to finish buying land for the complex, and to pay for road and utilities infrastructure, says Mark Peterson, president and CEO of Greater Rochester Enterprise.
Peterson says the STAMP site is logical. The nanotech companies that region officials want to attract prefer an open, undeveloped site, he says. Officials also wanted a 1,200 acre site, he says, so the options were limited.
Demographics are another factor. The targeted companies tend to locate in regions with more than a million workers, Peterson says. Neither Buffalo nor Rochester hit that mark on their own, he says, but combined, the regions have a work force of approximately 1.4 million. And the site is easy to get to from both cities.
The site is also within a New York Power Authority low-cost hydropower zone, which is important because the businesses use a lot of electricity, Peterson says.