In the interest of trying to come to a better understanding of what we believe is a very misguided decision to locate a Science, Technology and Advanced Manufacturing Park (STAMP) in Alabama, New York, out in Genesee County, we hopped in the car for the voyage west to the site. The STAMP here is aimed at generating 10,000 jobs, and will have a completed price tag north of $500 million. About an hour later (yes, we took the expressways, and it was mid-morning, not rush hour), we arrived. Here’s the site:
Actually, here’s the site, looking southeast:
And here is Alabama, New York:
Alabama is quite a small hamlet – a few dozen buildings surrounded by farmland. Less than a mile away is the 10,000 acre Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge, with its swamps and meadows and woodlands.
The site is within the Genesee County AG-2 district, as designated by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. The stated purpose of designated agriculture districts is “to protect and promote the availability of land for farming purposes.” Genesee County names the site as containing “prime” farmland, and much of the site area is within a designated Smart Growth Zone. In New York State, our legislated Smart Growth Policy says this:
“§ 6-0105. State smart growth public infrastructure policy.
It is the purpose of this article to augment the state’s environmental
policy by declaring a fiscally prudent state policy of maximizing the
social, economic and environmental benefits from public infrastructure
development through minimizing unnecessary costs of sprawl development
including environmental degradation, disinvestment in urban and suburban
communities and loss of open space induced by sprawl facilitated by the
funding or development of new or expanded transportation, sewer and
waste water treatment, water, education, housing and other publicly
supported infrastructure inconsistent with smart growth public
The site’s western boundary, literally, is a reservation for the Tonawanda Band of the Seneca Indians.
Further north – about 6 miles – is the village of Medina, population 6,000, and 14 mile to the southeast is Batavia, population 15,000.
So, what did we conclude during our sojourn? Several things.
Alabama has a lot going for it. Designated and protected prime farmland, a Smart Growth Zone, a nearby National Wildlife Refuge, substantial history for Native-Americans, designated and protected wetlands, great opportunities for activities outdoors.
Alabama is not near a major population center, with existing infrastructure, skilled workers, transit, and brownfield sites already prepared for redevelopment. To get to Alabama from Rochester, workers need to plan on a commute by car – no transit is available to the site – of about an hour.
To put a STAMP out in Alabama, with 10,000 workers, is complete madness. Not only would the STAMP violate nearly all of the assets of the place, and would certainly not represent anything approaching Smart Growth, but a STAMP here would mean missing the opportunity to employ new job creation where it is most logical, and will do the most good – the city. We thought it was a bad idea before we went to Alabama. After our visit, we are sure. This is a legacy mistake in the making. Perhaps better, another legacy mistake in the making.
A last note for our none-Rochester readers. In a recent newspaper article here, it was suggested that a model for this Upstate New York STAMP is the Intel Campus in Hillsboro, Oregon. Just to be quite clear, Hillsboro is less than 15 miles from downtown Portland, and that site is served by MAX, the region’s light rail transit system, with trains every 15 minutes.
A good model. Not Alabama, New York, but a good model, and a great argument for putting the STAMP where it belongs – in the city.