Lure Micron to Syracuse – Dinner in Armory Square, run along creek, lots of land and money

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Syracuse, NY — Every time Onondaga County was turned down by a chip mill, County Executive Ryan McMahon doubled down, bought more land and bet it would one day help him win the jackpot. On Tuesday, he did.

micron technology announced Tuesday what McMahon and a tired team of state, federal and local advocates have known for a couple of weeks: The company plans to spend as much as $100 billion to build what could be the nation’s largest chip factory just a few miles away. Syracuse.

The project would create up to 9,000 well-paying technology jobs, in addition to up to 40,000 jobs in construction, support services and supply chain companies.

“This changes the lives of the people of our state,” the governor said. Kathy Hochul said.

It took almost a year and a half of negotiation to win Micron’s favor, and it couldn’t have happened without federal incentives championed by US Senator Charles Schumer and state subsidies pushed by Hochul.

But along the way there were many lesser moments as a team of Micron executives based in Boise, Idaho, came to know and appreciate Syracuse. Dinner in the Plaza de la Armería. Run along the Creekwalk. A trip to the JMA Dome. Talks with local business owners.

The most difficult negotiations were about money. New York state is a relatively expensive place to build, and the Micron board would never approve the project here unless the cost was brought down in line with other states like Texas.

McMahon and others say the talks sometimes got tense.

But along the way, through all the months of meetings, Central New York satisfied another Micron demand that really couldn’t be negotiated: The Micron team decided that Syracuse seemed like a good place to live.

April Arnzen, a Micron senior vice president who was part of the site assessment team, said she and her colleagues have learned to appreciate life in central New York. In part, that came from little moments like the runs Arnzen and other team members put in along the Creekwalk.

“We explored. We spent more time here and realized this was a destination our employees would want to be in,” said Arnzen, the company’s chief people officer. “You have this opportunity to be in the city, this lifestyle more urban if you will, where some of our talent wants to be there. And you have all these great rural communities. So the more time we spent here, the more sold we were.”

Some called it a ‘failed dream’

Winning the Micron deal started with the land.

Three years ago, during McMahon’s first year in office, the county’s White Pine Commerce Park in the town of Clay was just 339 acres, some of which was non-building wetlands.

Since then, McMahon has spent more than $25 million in taxpayer dollars to buy land, often amid shouts of anger and derision, on a “calculated risk” that he might land a megaproject big enough to, in your words, change. local history.

The site is now nearly 1,400 acres and growing. Last week, the county’s industrial development agency paid another $3.8 million to add 60 acres, according to property records.

On top of that, the county has committed $200 million to improve the wastewater facilities that serve the site.

McMahon had been looking to White Pine for a chip factory since 2017, when Marilyn Higgins, a former National Grid official, pointed out to him the site’s unique advantages: robust electrical service (a giant 765-kilovolt transmission line runs nearby), plus a large amount of direct water from Lake Ontario.

McMahon was convinced that all he had to do was make the site big enough and he could compete for a large chip factory. That belief was confirmed by chipmakers including Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. and Intel Corp.

White Pine was a finalist for both companies as they looked for places to build, McMahon said. TSMC executives visited Syracuse but chose to build in Phoenix, Arizona in May 2020, when the White Pine site was still too small. Intel Corporation decided in January 2022 to build near Columbus, Ohio, but looked seriously at White Pine, McMahon said.

Ultimately, Micron said yes.

“New York State is only getting this project because of the White Pine site,” McMahon said. “There is no other site in the state of New York that can do this project.”

In early 2019, when White Pine was just over 300 acres, McMahon’s vision for the place was nearly cut short. A landowner was preparing to sell 106 acres near the heart of the site for use as a solar farm, a prospect that would have derailed McMahon’s efforts to put together a large, adjoining site.

County officials called the owner and quickly negotiated to pay more to get the land, said Robert Petrovich, the county’s director of economic development. the county paid around $900,000he said.

“I was literally about to sign a contract to sell this to the solar company,” Petrovich said. “We came at the last minute and paid a premium for the property. But at the same time, it was so critical that it had to happen.”

Critics wondered why the county was spending money on a site with no leased tenant.

“Onondaga County should stop pouring public money into a failed dream of attracting a major manufacturer to the city of Clay,” he said. an editorial in this publication.

A call from Schumer

Talks with Micron began in early 2021 with a presentation from Schumer’s office, McMahon said. At the time, Schumer was talking to Micron CEO Sanjay Mehrotra about pending Schumer Chip Act legislation, at the same time pushing him to build in New York.

Schumer’s and Micron’s relentless pursuit of the legislation were instrumental, McMahon said. The legislation provides large grants plus investment tax credits for semiconductor manufacturers that build in the US.

“Really, no one was more tenacious than I’ve seen in my career than Senator Schumer in that process,” McMahon said.

In those early days, Micron looked at several potential sites in New York but decided White Pine was the only one that would work, McMahon said. The company was also looking at sites in Texas, Virginia, North Carolina, Michigan and Wisconsin, McMahon said.

A few months later, Micron hired a professional site selection company to compare competing sites. When White Pine was compared to other states, New York and the county were repeatedly pressured to provide more financial aid.

“They’re beating you up with the incentives,” McMahon said of the meetings. “Do you think incentives don’t matter? Incentives are everything. At the end of the day, you can’t be the most expensive state they’re looking at.”

Empire State Development Executive Deputy Commissioner Kevin Younis was a regular in meetings and calls with the Micron team. There were tough discussions about money, he said. At the same time, Younis, a native of Syracuse, said Micron executives clicked with the Central New York team on issues like workplace diversity and environmental sustainability.

“There was a time when we just said, wow, this company cares about the things that matter to us,” he said.

Hochul said he began seeking a deal with Micron just weeks after he succeeded the governor. Andrew Cuomo in August 2021. She invited top Micron executives to her Albany office in September in one of her first official meetings as governor, she said.

When Hochul asked Mehrotra what he needed to do to make a deal, he mentioned that New York’s labor costs, particularly for construction workers, were higher than other places Micron considered making an investment.

Hochul said he responded quickly to craft a draft labor agreement with the unions that leveled the playing field with other states. The deal will be in place for the next 20 years while Micron builds its megachip plant complex.

Financial negotiations dragged on for months, as passage of the Schumer Token Act appeared to stall in Congress. At the same time, Hochul pushed through his Green Chips legislation in Albany, giving Micron the opportunity to earn $5.5 billion in refundable tax credits over 20 years.

Hochul finally signed the legislation on August 11. President Biden signed the Token Act on August 10. 9.

Without both, the Micron deal couldn’t happen, McMahon said. The Republican county executive said he worked well with the Democratic governor and Senate majority leader.

“This was the best bipartisan site attraction team we’ve ever put together,” he said.

‘We are believers now’

Months before the legislation passed, Younis said, he believes Micron executives had decided they wanted to land in Syracuse if the numbers worked out. During January 2022, Mehrotra and a team of about 10 people from Micron arrived in Syracuse for a series of meetings.

They met with several technology companies in the Syracuse area, including JMA Wireless, Lockheed Martin and Saab Sensis, to discuss their successes and challenges in attracting skilled workers.

Hochul flew to Syracuse to meet the Micron people at Lemon Grass, a Thai restaurant in Armory Square. The idea, Hochul said, was to do a quick, informal pitch for the company to build in White Pine.

“I had intended to meet them for cocktails and it ended up being a three-hour dinner,” Hochul said. | The postal standard.

“I was actually able to talk to them not only about upstate and the incredible assets we have, but also as someone who lived there for four years at Syracuse University,” Hochul said.

Over dinner, Hochul said, she spoke about the legacy of a strong work ethic embedded in upstate New Yorkers dating back to the region’s industrial boom two generations ago.

Hochul told Mehrotra how his grandfather worked his entire career at Bethlehem Steel and generations of the same family worked at plants like General Electric and Carrier Corp. in Syracuse.

It was a good time to be in downtown Syracuse, Younis recalled. There was a show at the Landmark Theater. The Salt City market was packed with people.

The people at Micron liked what they saw.

“At some point, one of them said something to me like, ‘We were skeptical when we got here. Now we are believers,’” he said.

Staff reporter Mark Weiner contributed to this story.

Have a news tip or story idea? Contact reporter Tim Knauss: E-mail | Twitter | | 315-470-3023.


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The decades-long chase to land a semiconductor giant near Syracuse (timeline)

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