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Putting a big STAMP on regional job creation in Genesee County

The planned Genesee County business park known as Western New York STAMP is gigantic in many ways.

The proposed site, 5 miles north of the Pembroke interchange of the Thruway, consists of more than 1,200 acres in the Town of Alabama. Business recruiters say the park could generate thousands of new jobs for people from both the Buffalo and Rochester regions and attract billions of dollars in investment from companies such as computer chip fabricators.

STAMP is short for Science Technology and Advanced Manufacturing Park. The goal is to market the site’s vast acreage, access to workforces and colleges, and availability of low-cost power to lure a giant production facility with precisely those mega-needs.

STAMP’s advocates say the park could create 30,000 jobs from Buffalo to Rochester – including more than 9,000 directly in the park – and attract $10 billion in private capital investment when fully built out, 15 to 20 years after the start of construction. Economic-development officials, in meeting with The Buffalo News Editorial Board this week, said they have received positive signals from the technology-intensive industries they hope to attract.

Steven G. Hyde, president and CEO of the Genesee County Economic Development Center, said plans for the park are in their sixth year. “This isn’t a pipe dream that just started yesterday. This is real and has lots of potential.”

A town vote on rezoning the land for STAMP, which Hyde called “the next big gate to get through,” is scheduled to occur in a couple of weeks. And the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council has put STAMP on its list of priority projects to compete for state funding, with a request for up to $12.5 million.

The funds would go toward taking ownership of the entire site and getting some of the infrastructure designed and permitted, Hyde said.

Economic development officials estimate the total cost of developing STAMP at $250 million, an investment that would unfold over a number of years.

“The real key is, you only want to spend about 10 percent of the infrastructure cost, and then you start to sell [to business prospects],” Hyde said. “You wouldn’t make any incremental investment in the site until you’ve got the big fish, an anchor tenant, committed. So really, when you look at it, this is about a $23 million, $25 million investment to go after a $5 billion-plus anchor.”

The types of plants that would locate in STAMP would generate jobs across the skills spectrum, said Thomas A. Kucharski, president and CEO of Buffalo Niagara Enterprise. “So you’re not just appealing to high-end nano civil engineer, mechanical engineer-type folks.”

While semiconductor chip manufacturing is a prime target for STAMP, it is not the only high-tech industry that would be a good fit, Hyde said, mentioning solid-state lighting and photovoltaic products as two others.

Competing for such coveted plants requires a massive, available site like STAMP with some infrastructure, Kucharski said. These types of companies want access to a large labor pool like Buffalo and Rochester can offer, but also want to build on a low-vibration “greenfield” with ample room to expand; Kucharski said the STAMP site meets those criteria.

“If you do want to take a shot down the field,” he said, “this is the one to pursue.”

Genesee County has already found success with the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park in the Town of Batavia, which used a similar model of long-term development and pinpointing industries to pursue, Hyde said. Two yogurt plants have committed to that park, including a $206 million Muller Quaker Dairy plant scheduled to open in 2013.

Economic development officials have been working on STAMP plans with CH2M HILL, a prominent engineering and architectural firm that provides site-selection services to companies. Kucharski said the STAMP plan is credible with its target audience.

“The CH2M HILLs and the industry folks that we’re talking to, if we were full of it, they would tell us,” he said.

Kucharski and Hyde said they are confident that the types of plants they want STAMP to compete for will become a reality over the next several years, since companies in those industries need to keep pace with technological innovations.

“This has been in the works for quite some time, and it’s now getting at a point where we need the greater region to be invested in it and take our best shot at it,” Kucharski said.

“Because if we don’t move forward with this, if we look around within the plans and targeted industries, there is nothing of this magnitude out there in the foreseeable future.”