Attracting Micron to Syracuse: Dinner in Armory Square, stream flows along, lots of land and money

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Syracuse, NY – Every time Onondaga County was rejected for a chip fab, County Administrator Ryan McMahon doubled down, bought more land and bet that he would one day help him win the jackpot. Tuesday, it’s done.

Micron Technology On Tuesday, McMahon and a bone-fed team of state, federal, and local advocates announced what they’ve known for several weeks: The company plans to spend up to $100 billion to build the country’s largest chip factory, which could be a few miles outside of Syracuse.

The project will create up to 9,000 high-paying technology jobs plus up to 40,000 jobs in construction, support services and supply chain companies.

Gov. “This is life changing for the people of our state,” he said. said Kathy Hochul.

It took nearly a year and a half of negotiations to gain Micron’s approval, and it couldn’t have happened without federal incentives backed by the U.S. Senator. Government subsidies promoted by Charles Schumer and Hochul.

Along the way, however, there were many small moments, as a team of Micron executives based in Boise, Idaho, got to know and love Syracuse. Dinner in Armory Square. It runs along the Creekwalk. A trip to the JMA Dome. Chats with local business owners.

The hardest bargains were about money. The state of New York is a relatively expensive place to build, and Micron’s board would never approve the project here unless the cost falls in line with other states like Texas.

McMahon and others say talks sometimes get tense.

But meanwhile, during months of meetings, Central New York met another Micron request that wasn’t really negotiable: The Micron team decided that Syracuse looked like a good place to live.

April Arnzen, Micron’s senior vice president, who was part of the field assessment team, said she and her colleagues have learned to appreciate Central New York life. In part, this came from small moments like the runs Arnzen and others on the team did along the Creekwalk.

“We discovered it. We spent more time here and realized that this is a place where our employees would want to be,” she said. And you have all these wonderful rural communities. So the more time we spent here, the more we were sold.”

Some called it a ‘failed dream’

Winning the Micron deal started with the land.

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

Since then, McMahon has spent more than $25 million from taxpayers – often to the whim of anger and teasing – to buy land – “with a calculated risk” that he could, in his own words, launch a megaproject big enough to replace it. local history.

Now the site is about 1,400 acres and growing. Just last week, the county industrial development agency paid another $3.8 million to add 60 acres, according to property records.

Thereupon, the county committed $200 million to renovate the wastewater facilities serving the region.

McMahon has been watching the White Pine landscape for a chip fab since 2017, when Marilyn Higgins, a former National Grid official, pointed out to him the site’s unique advantages: solid electrical service—a giant 765 kilovolt transmission line runs nearby—plus plenty of it. water directly from Lake Ontario.

McMahon was convinced that all he had to do was get the site big enough and it could compete for a mega-size chip factory. This belief is supported by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. verified by chip manufacturers, including and Intel Corp.

McMahon said White Pine was a finalist for both companies as they were looking for places to build. TSMC executives visited Syracuse, but chose to build in Phoenix, Arizona, where in May 2020 the White Pine field was still too small. Intel Corp. McMahon decided to build it near Columbus, Ohio in January 2022, but took a serious look at White Pine, he said.

Finally, Micron said yes.

“The state of New York is taking this project solely because of the White Pine field,” said McMahon. “There is no other site in New York state that can do this project.”

In early 2019, when White Pine was just over 300 acres, McMahon’s vision of the place was nearly interrupted. A landowner was preparing to sell 106 acres near the heart of the estate for use as a solar farm; this was a possibility that would ruin McMahon’s efforts to build a large, contiguous site.

The county’s director of economic development, Robert Petrovich, said county officials called the landowner and quickly negotiated an extra payment to buy the land. Country paid about $900,000said.

“He was literally about to sign a contract to sell it to the solar company,” Petrovich said. “We stepped in at the last minute and paid a premium for the property. But it was also so critical that it had to be.”

Critics wondered why the county would spend money on a site that has no contract tenants.

“Onondaga County must stop driving public money into a failed dream of attracting a major producer to the town of Clay,” he said. an editorial in this post.

A call from Schumer

McMahon said talks with Micron began in early 2021 with a publicity from Schumer’s office. At the time, Schumer was talking with Micron CEO Sanjay Mehrotra about Schumer’s pending Chips Act legislation, while also nagging him to build it in New York.

McMahon said Schumer’s legislation and Micron’s relentless pursuit were critical. The legislation provides for large grants and investment tax credits for semiconductor manufacturers built in the US.

“I’ve really never seen anyone more stubborn in my career than Senator Schumer in this process,” McMahon said.

McMahon said that in those early days, Micron evaluated several potential sites in New York, but decided that White Pine was the only site that might work. McMahon said the company is also looking at sites in Texas, Virginia, North Carolina, Michigan and Wisconsin.

A few months later, Micron hired a professional site selection firm to compare competing sites. Compared to other states in White Pine, New York and the county have repeatedly been pressured to provide more financial aid.

“They beat you up with incentives,” McMahon said of the meetings. “Don’t you think incentives matter? Incentives are everything. At the end of the day, you can’t be the most expensive state they’ve looked at.”

Kevin Younis, vice president of Empire State Development, held regular meetings and calls with the Micron team. He said there were difficult discussions about money. At the same time, Younis, a Syracuse native, said Micron executives spoke to the Central New York team on issues such as employment diversity and environmental sustainability.

“There was a moment when we just went, wow, this company cares about what we care about,” he said.

Hochul said he started making a deal with Micron within weeks of succeeding Gov. Andrew Cuomo in August 2021. At one of his first official meetings as governor, he said in September he had invited top executives from Micron to his Albany office.

When Hochul asked Mehrotra to tell him what he needed for a deal, he noted that New York’s labor costs—especially for construction workers—are higher than anywhere else Micron is considering investing in.

Hochul said he responded quickly to negotiate a project employment contract with unions that level the playing field with other states. The deal will run for the next 20 years as Micron builds the mega-chip factory complex.

Financial negotiations dragged on for months as the passage of Schumer’s Chips Act seemed to stall in Congress. At the same time, Hochul enforced the Green Chips law in Albany, which gave Micron the opportunity to earn $5.5 billion in refundable tax credits over 20 years.

Hochul finally signed the law on August 11. President Biden signed the Chips Act in August. 9.

McMahon said that without these two, the Micron deal would not be possible. The Republican county executive said he worked well with the Democratic governor and Senate majority leader.

“This was the largest two-sided site attraction team we’ve ever put together,” he said.

‘We believe now’

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

They met with many tech companies in the Syracuse area, including JMA Wireless, Lockheed Martin, and Saab Sensis, to talk about 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. Hochul said the idea was to take a quick, informal step for the company to build in White Pine.

“I planned to meet them for cocktails, and it ended up being a three-hour dinner,” Hochul said. | Post-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 at Syracuse University for four years,” Hochul said. Said.

During dinner, Hochul said he talked about a legacy of a strong work ethic rooted in Upstate New Yorkers, dating back to the area’s industrial boom two generations ago.

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

Younis was a good time to be in downtown Syracuse. There was a show at the Landmark Theatre. Salt City Market was bustling.

The people of Micron liked what they saw.

“At one point, one of them said to me something like, ‘We were skeptical when we got here. Now we believe it.’

Staff reporter Mark Weiner contributed to this story.

Have a news tip or a story idea? Communications reporter Tim Knauss: email | excitement | | 315-470-3023.


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Decades of chase to land a semiconductor giant near Syracuse (timeline)

Micron Central comes to New York: ‘Make no mistake. ‘This is the future’

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