The state’s former executive vice president of the Empire State Development Corporation, John Bacheller, says New York’s economic development strategy appears to have changed to “if you build it, they will come.”
“They’re now doing speculative projects,” said Bacheller. “Projects that don’t actually have a tenant, like Syracuse’s Film Hub.”
A $15 million, 52,000 square foot facility, aimed at bringing Hollywood-style productions to Central New York.
One year into the project, the Hub houses just two full-time employees and been used with work on four feature films.
SUNY says anyone criticizing production is misinformed, and ignores progress and vision of a seven year process.
“What you have there is just the building of a facility, with the hope that somebody will come,” Bacheller said.
But what if they don’t?
With neighboring projects, like GE’s $150 million Quad-C project in utica, if the company fails to do any work or leave before their contract is up, they’d have to pay back a portion of the state’s investment.
While SUNY-POLY spokesman Jerry Gretzinger says that’s unlikely, in the event that happens, all of the tools and equipment acquired is state-of-the-art and has value to more than just one company.
SUNY’s never had a major partner leave the state, but Bacheller says the Film Hub is different.
“The $15 million that was spent there right now has no real opportunity for recapture because there are no tenants with job requirements,” he said.
The former Empire State Development Vice President says the state did provide incentives during his time to attract companies, but the state is assuming more risk now than before.
“In the past we would make grants,” he said. “We’d make basically the smallest grant we had to incentivize the company.”
Bacheller hopes future projects mean more company investment than state dollars.