Important milestone for region Cree ceremonial beam signing shows significant progress for area

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If you have driven along the Route 69 or Route 840 corridors, it is likely that amidst the dazzling red, orange and yellow autumn leaves of the Marcy hills you have seen them — massive cranes reaching several stories high, towering over a steel and concrete skeleton that will be the future home for a Cree Inc. factory.

The building is rising over the north side of the Mohawk River Valley, visible from throughout the surrounding area, just west of the SUNY Polytechnic Institute.

And it represents more than a picturesque construction project in those colorful hills. It represents economic progress, sustainable growth and a clear plan for our future.

State and local officials celebrated a construction milestone there on Thursday afternoon: the ceremonial placement of the final steel beam in place for the Cree factory that is anticipated to employ more than 600 people by the end of the decade.

Cree, the North Carolina-based semiconductor company, has 40 full-time employees working on its under-construction silicon carbide fabrication facility in Marcy, and had 24 interns from universities across the state this past summer.

The ambitious project — years in the making — is on schedule with a clean room ready for fabrication tools this coming spring and a gradual ramp-up of the facility with production set to begin in 2022. A full projected staff of 614 would be on site by 2029, the company has said.

The project culminates some 20 years of effort by state and Oneida County officials to lure a major semiconductor industry employer. The billion-dollar facility will fabricate 200-milimeter-wide wafers of silicon carbide and is considered to be the world’s largest of its kind, making products for use in power generation, telecommunications and most significantly the automotive industry in electric cars, trucks and buses under Cree’s Wolfspeed business division.

It also represents something impressive that our region can and should acknowledge. It was made possible by leadership — of both parties — working together diligently, respectfully and cooperatively to deliver a much needed boost to our region.

A host of incentives were used to support the project, including $500 million in performance-based capital grants from Empire State Development to reimburse a portion of Cree’s costs of fitting out the new facility and acquiring and installing new machinery and equipment, along with $1 million in Excelsior Jobs tax credits. The State University of New York has also committed to match up to $5 million in semiconductor-related research funding from Cree for the SUNY system.

Help also arrived locally. Cree is taking part in a program of payments in lieu of property taxes to Marcy, Whitesboro schools, the Maynard Fire Department and Oneida County with some $22 to $30 million depending on the final building design, while Oneida County’s contributions include upgrading the access road and electrical connection. Cree is to pay up to $69 million over the 49-year term of its long-term lease for the state-owned site.

Cree also announced in July $3.5 million for a scholarship program and two endowed faculty positions at SUNY Polytechnic Institute, with the scholarships aimed at helping students from underserved or marginalized communities and those with financial need.

Cree could have placed this new flagship venture virtually anywhere, but we are grateful and encouraged that it is here in the Mohawk Valley, one of several important projects currently under way in the region that help to signal, and hopefully shape, future economic prosperity.

Similarly, we are also grateful and encouraged, for leadership that put aside party lines to work together for the good of their constituents to help make this happen.

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