Gov. Cuomo’s much-maligned upstate economic-revitalization program is under fire again after a manufacturer suddenly bailed on a new $90 million factory near Syracuse financed by the state — without being required to pay a penalty.
The state is now spending another $15 million to bring in a semiconductor firm, NextGen Power Systems, to set up shop at the empty facility in DeWitt.
The firm that bailed, LED light-bulb manufacturer Soraa, was supposed to create 420 jobs.
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When he landed the company, Cuomo boasted it would be a game changer for upstate.
“Today’s announcement not only means economic stability for the region, but it also strengthens central New York as a leader in the development of the clean technology that will help light and power the future,” Cuomo said on Oct. 29, 2015.
The switcheroo, first reported by Syracuse.com, astounded some elected officials.
“What in God’s name is going on here? This is a microcosm of the way Gov. Cuomo does business,” said state Sen. John DeFrancisco, a Republican who represents the Syracuse area and is mulling a run against Cuomo next year.
“The state economic-development programs are broke.”
DeFrancisco is demanding answers why Soraa faced no penalty for walking away from the project and wonders whether the new tenant will get the same sweetheart deal.
He’s also questioning why California-based NextGen was selected for the site when a predecessor company failed to relocate to Rochester as promised in 2016.
Avogy Inc. went out of business about nine months after Cuomo announced it would move to Rochester and create nearly 400 jobs. NexGen CEO Dinesh Ramanathan was also CEO of Avogy.
Howard Zemsky, Cuomo’s chief economic-development adviser, defended the additional $15 million investment. NextGen has committed to creating 290 jobs and investing $40 million at the facility, he said.
“Understanding the need for an anchor tenant that will help drive the innovation economy forward in central New York, we have moved quickly and successfully as we recently agreed to terms with NexGen Power Systems to establish operations in the nearly complete facility,” said Zemsky, who heads Empire State Development.
Unlike the prior deal with Soraa, the agreement with NextGen will include a clawback provision if it abandons the site.