Upstate data center plan gets backing from Senate majority leader

Elizabeth Cooper

The Governor’s Office and the state Senate’s new Republican majority leader have distinct views on bringing a state data center to the Mohawk Valley.

Last month, Gov. David Paterson’s office said the state’s commitment under predecessor George Pataki to put a data center in Marcy was made prematurely.

In a visit to Utica on Tuesday, new Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Rockville Center, said he supports bringing the data center and its 200 state jobs to the area.

“I think Gov. Pataki made a commitment for it to come here and I think Gov. Paterson should follow through on that,” Skelos said.

Skelos took over his party’s top spot in the Senate two weeks ago after Joseph Bruno, R-Brunswick, said he would not seek re-election.

If the data center doesn’t go to Marcy, Oneida County should get some sort of comparable boost, Skelos said.

“If the alternative is going to create more jobs and better jobs then I’m for that,” he said. “But the state made that commitment. They should follow through with either the data center or a real alternative.”

Asked about Skelos’ comments, Paterson’s office pointed to statements made in a June 21 article in the Observer-Dispatch.

“The initial announcement on this project was made without a comprehensive analysis of its feasibility,” Paterson spokesman Morgan Hook said at the time.

In September 2006, in the waning months of his last term, then-Gov. Pataki promised that a state data center that would employ 240 people would be built in Marcy.

After the announcement, a public employees union opposed the plan to shift jobs from Albany to the Mohawk Valley.

Pataki’s successor, Democrat Eliot Spitzer, backed away from the data center commitment, but said the area could get some other benefit if the data center didn’t materialize.

Now the state is conducting a study to determine the best place for the facility.

State Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, said he didn’t hold out much hope for the data center.

“There is a good probability that it may not happen because they are going to use whatever new analysis they have, but if it doesn’t happen it’s incumbent that we ensure that the administration puts resources here,” he said.

And that’s where Skelos’ support will be important, he said.

“It’s important to have the leader as an ally,” Griffo said.

“This was going to be about $100 million worth of investment,” he said, as if in a negotiation. “How are you going to invest here? That’s why we need allies.”

Steve DiMeo, president of Mohawk Valley EDGE, a Rome-based economic development agency for Oneida and Herkimer counties, said he wanted to learn what other options might be on the table.

“I think we need to see more of what the state is thinking in terms of other options,” he said.

Assemblywoman RoAnn Destito, D-Rome, said that if the data center didn’t occur here, she wanted to see the state help fund a high-technology education program in the area.

“I want a public-private partnership with our education facilities where we are able to bring more than just public sector jobs,” she said.

Destito said she was working on that concept and that something was “in the offing,” but declined to discuss it further.