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Schumer pushes bill to create $500 million fund to prepare sites for development

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Madison County officials on site
Ellen Abbott
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Madison County officials on site of Harbor Light’s Business Park, an area that could benefit from the ONSHORE Act.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is pushing a $500 million bipartisan bill that would create shovel-ready sites for supply chain companies. Schumer said it would help boost a local workforce, and bring jobs back from overseas.

Madison County Board Chairman John Becker said the Harbor Light’s Business Park along the shore of Oneida Lake in the Town of Sullivan, has been mostly empty for 20 years. One of the problems it has, especially when developers come to look at it, are wetlands that have to be mitigated, an expensive task. As a result, companies have balked at signing on in the past.

"They came in, sat down at the conference table, was ready to go," Becker said. "The one question they asked was 'Are your wetlands mitigated?' We said 'We haven't done that recently, they're not up to date.' They folded up the book and they were out that fast. That meeting was five minutes."

CenterState CEO Chief Executive Officer Rob Simpson said it’s a story he’s heard again and again. Companies pulling out of deals in central New York because a site isn’t shovel-ready.

"Companies — they want predictability and they want certainty and they want to de-risk every single decision they can make as much as possible," Simpson said. "If there isn't a water pipe connected, if there isn't a clear wastewater solution, if the power asset isn't completely well known, or the transformer hasn't been ordered, those things create risk and risk helps lose deals."

The so-called ONSHORE Act would offer federal assistance for workforce and infrastructure development for sites like Harbor Lights. Schumer said it follows the CHIPS Act, which cleared the way for Micron’s $100 billion investment in a memory chip complex at the White Pine Commerce Park in Onondaga County. Schumer said Micron chose central New York in part after officials saw the site was shovel-ready.

"It was ready, it was right near a major power facility," Schumer said. "It had plenty of good cold water. It had a great workforce. It mattered a great deal. And that's how you locate sites."

Schumer said his goal is to build off the Micron investment creating shovel-ready sites across upstate New York. The program would specifically provide $100 million a year for five years for site and utility readiness, workforce development, and logistics, and it would be key in keeping the all-important supply chain for high-tech businesses in the U.S. Schumer said the proposed legislation has bipartisan support, and he thinks it could be approved in the fall.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.