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As many as 6,000 electric-powered postal vans will be produced at the former Griffiss Air Force Base under a contract announced Wednesday that could create up to 300 jobs.

The contract awarded to a partnership of Ford Motor Co. and Baker Electromotive was touted by local politicians as a boon to both the environment and the area's economy, which took a hit after the Air Force abandoned Griffiss in 1993. Officials have been trying to transform portions of the sprawling base into a high-tech center, and saw this $180 million deal as a possible linchpin for more development.

Under the U.S. Postal Service contract, production of 500 battery-powered vehicles will begin in 2001. The Postal Service could begin exercising options for additional vehicles that year on the way to fulfilling the 6,000-vehicle contract.

Baker leases space at Griffiss for its alternate-fuel vehicle business. The company signed a $300,000 contract with the state Energy Research and Development Authority in 1997 to design, build and test an electric version of the Postal Service's delivery vehicle. The company uses electric vehicle chassis produced by Ford.

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