KENNETH C. CROWE II Staff writer
Section: MAIN,  Page: A1

Date: Thursday, May 30, 2002

Saratoga Economic Development Corp. is making an aggressive move to get companies to invest up to $2 billion in high-tech manufacturing and to employ 2,000 people by building its own 1,350-acre industrial park near Saratoga Lake. SEDC President Kenneth Green said his nonprofit firm, which is Saratoga County's economic development arm, has an 80 percent chance of bringing businesses to the proposed Luther Forest Technology Campus if the concept is approved by the towns of Malta and Stillwater.

``What we don't have is a ready-to-go site where a company could spend a billion or two,'' Green said Wednesday night at a presentation to the Malta and Stillwater town boards.

Computer chips, nanotechnology and flat screens are on the short list of products and uses SEDC envisions for the college campus-style setting at the site where a 125,000-seat NASCAR racetrack was proposed in 1998. At about the same time, the site was pushed by SEDC as a possible location for a computer chip fabrication plant.

Green said there already is interest among companies building at the site. However, he said, there are no firm commitments at this time.

Jack Kelley, SEDC's executive vice president who is managing the project, said that 8,000 people could be working at the Luther Forest Technology Campus within 20 years if it is completely developed.

It will be two to four years before SEDC could see the first phase of its four-phase project open. After obtaining the towns' approval, it would take several years to build and construct a high-tech manufacturing facility.

The 1,350 acres that SEDC has an option on from the Mackey family and Wright-Malta Corp. sits between Dunning Street in Malta and Cold Springs Road in Stillwater. About 80 percent of the parcel is in Malta and the remaining 20 percent in Stillwater. The site is adjacent the Saratoga Technology and Energy Park, owned by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

``It's like a diamond in the rough that hasn't been seen yet,'' Green said. ``This is our coming out party.''

The public introduction will have a more formal appearance when SEDC's proposal for a planned development district are officially presented in June to the two towns. That's when details about environmental impacts traffic, sewers, water, parking and other requirements will be explained.

SEDC is spending $1.4 million in grants from State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, R-Brunswick, and Gov. George Pataki to pay for getting the project through the review process. This is expected to take into 2003 to win the towns' approval.

``This is the beginning of a long process,'' said Malta Supervisor David R. Meager, whose town will bear the responsibility for leading the review process.

``This project is so large there's going to be a lot of questions,'' Meager added.

Stillwater Supervisor Paul F. ``Butch'' Lilac described the project as ``very exciting'' with lots of economic potential for the two towns and the Capital Region. But, he said, everything has to be scrutinized closely.

Traffic congestion has already emerged as a chief worry. Maps presented to the town boards depicted an arterial running from the proposed technology park through the northern portion of the village of Round Lake turning south to parallel the Northway and ending at Northway Exit 11.

``I'm very concerned about the traffic,'' Round Lake Mayor Dixie Lee Sacks said.

Vehicles would flow from the industrial park's businesses into the historic village with its Victorian architecture.

Comments about traffic are expected from residents in the nearby Luther Forest development. Meager told SEDC bluntly that traffic from the project will not be allowed to go out on to Dunning Street, the road that accesses Luther Forest.

SEDC said water for the project would be drawn from the Hudson River and not Saratoga Lake. The use of the lake as a water source is a fear among residents concerned about the popular, recreational water body. The city of Saratoga Springs has identified the lake as its preferred drinking water source.

SEDC officials said the river would be accessed in Stillwater and piped overland to the site.

Major sewer improvements also are needed. SEDC projects that it may have to build sewer lines with a capacity to carry up to 10 million gallons of waste water per day.

Green said SEDC has been assembling the project for the past year. Among its consultants is the engineering firm C.T. Male of Colonie. The firm's president is Robert Allen, who also serves on the Malta Town Board. Allen announced he would not participate in the board's deliberations. FACTS:The plan Size: 1,350 acres - four times the size of the State Office Campus in Albany. Cost: One high tech chip fab plant would cost $1 billion to $2 billion to develop (the Empire State Plaza cost $1 billion in the late 1960s). Owner: Saratoga Economic Development Corp., which brought the Ace Hardware warehouse to Wilton. Reality check: Many sites nationally are competing for chip fab plants and other high-tech investments. Total jobs in 20 years: Potentially 8,000, the same number as the state workers being moved off the State Office campus. Source: Saratoga Economic Development Corp.