LOCAL SITES TOUTED FOR CHIP PLANTS

DAVID ORENSTEIN Business writer
Section: MAIN,  Page: A1

Date: Thursday, March 5, 1998

The state will aggressively market Rensselaer Technology Park in North Greenbush, a site along the Thruway in Glenmont, and 11 other parcels statewide as potential sites for semiconductor plants that typically employ hundreds of workers and represent investments of more than $1 billion. The sites, announced Wednesday by Gov. George Pataki, will be pre-approved for high-tech manufacturing so that a computer chip company could break ground on the land as soon as it decided to build a plant.


Chip plants are large factories in which computer processors, memory or other semiconductors are made.


The state is trying to make conditions attractive for semiconductor companies by touting the existing infrastructure and speeding up the permit and planning approval process.


Speed is important because technology changes quickly and the equipment used in the plant depreciates rapidly. Consequently, the faster it is operating, the better.


Each of the 13 sites around the state has at least 200 acres of open land and good access to major roads, water, power and academic and vocational facilities that can supply capable workers.


The Glenmont site is located west of the Thruway between Wemple and Clapper roads. It is a 395-acre parcel of undeveloped land and corn fields. Albany County Executive Michael Breslin said the county is negotiating with several private land owners to ensure that the property has only one title.


The Rensselaer Technology Park on Route 4 is owned by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The proposed site covers more than 200 acres and is home to several technology companies.


The other sites include Fishkill and East Fishkill, Dutchess County, and Wallkill, Orange County, all near International Business Machines' chip-making facilities; Marcy, Oneida County at SUNY's Institute of Technology; Orchard Park and West Seneca, Erie County; two sites in Henrietta, Monroe County, including one at the Rochester Institute of Technology; Niagara Falls, Niagara County; Clay, Onondaga County; and Aurelius, Cayuga County.


More than 50 communities around the state had submitted sites for the state to consider. Consultants Industrial Design Group picked the 13 that best met the industry's criteria for factory sites.


Although some observers have praised New York's ``Chip Fab '98'' program of pre-approving sites for semiconductor fabrication plants, no one believes the program will guarantee that chip companies will locate plants here.


Many other states and countries are competing to host new chip plants. Many nations are offering economic incentive packages worth hundreds of millions of dollars.


``This puts us in the game,'' said Empire State Development Corp. spokeswoman Caroline Quartararo.


Janet Rosen, a Kinderhook attorney who has studied the state's relative appeal to the semiconductor industry, said pre-permitting suitable sites is key to putting the state into contention at all.


Traditionally the state's approval process for even medium-size manufacturers has been perceived as onerous, said Rosen, who has done her research for First Albany Cos. First Albany acted as Intel's financial adviser when it built a plant in New Mexico.


``I think (pre-permitting) is the only way to go in this state,'' Rosen said. ``You have to give some added incentive. You have to create a reason for people to start looking here.''


Alain Kaloyeros, director for the University at Albany's Center for Advanced Thin Film Technology, said the Chip Fab '98 program has received a surprising amount of notice in the industry and in national media. The recognition is good for New York, he said.


Although the sites have only now been named and the pre-approval process for each site has not yet begun, the state has already begun marketing itself as an enthusiastic host for semiconductor plants, Quartararo said.


``We have a couple of leads,'' she said.


The state's desire to throw its weight behind local sites is a huge boost to the chances of any area, said Michael Wacholder, director of the Rensselaer Technology Park.


The park has been marketed to the semiconductor industry before in the '80s and '90s. At the time, there was not the same level of state support that exists now.


Also at the time, UAlbany and RPI did not have the same recognition for their advanced semiconductor research that they enjoy now.


``The Capital Region has so much intellectual infrastructure in place,'' Wacholder said. ``The magnetic pull is the intellect.''


Dan Hutcheson, president of VLSI Research Inc., a semiconductor industry research firm, said that communities and companies need to work with environmentalists in the early stages of a project to address any concerns that can come up.


``Intel in Oregon works with environmentalists very closely,'' he said. Staff writer Jim Odato and state editor John Caher contributed to this story. FACTS:Other state sites Here are the 11 other sites in the state that the state's consultant found to be strong candidates for development as semiconductor plants. LOCALITY COUNTY Aurelius Cayuga Clay Onandaga East Fishkill Dutchess Fishkill Dutchess Henrietta Monroe Henrietta Monroe Marcy Oneida Niagara Falls Niagara Orchard Park Erie Wallkill Orange West Seneca Erie SOURCE: Gov. George Pataki.