A Wednesday night virtual live program hosted by the Rome Historical Society — another installment of its monthly “Third Wednesday” series — provided a glimpse of how Griffiss Business and Technology Park has impacted the Rome business community, formerly as a United States Air Force base and now as a business and technology park.
Jennifer Waters, vice president of Business Development and Communications for Mohawk Valley EDGE (Economic Development Growth Enterprises Corporation), highlighted how the former Air Force base has transformed into what can be found there now, and discussed how EDGE, an economic development engine, aided the community-wide team effort in development of the 3,500 acre park which is now host to continued ongoing development projects that already reach into 2022.
In a portion of a statement made earlier Wednesday, Waters noted, “...When Griffiss Air Force Base closed, it left a hole not only in the physical City of Rome, but in our economic and social systems as well. It is a testament to the fortitude of the Park’s stakeholders that Griffiss Business and Technology Park is the success it is and continues to be today. New investment is rising out of the ground by the day in all of our key industries; including distribution, cybersecurity, information technology as well as new commercial and residential developments…”
In her later presentation it was noted that the former military base first opened in 1943, but an official realignment in 1995 on the heels of federal base realignment recommendations, “resulted in loss of nearly 1,200 civilian jobs and more than 4,400 members of the United State Air Force; 30% of Rome’s economic base and over 20% of population lost.”
This left 3,312 acres of the original 3,552 acre Air Force base declared as excess and ultimately defunded.
However, all was not lost, and over the years, a new purpose was reintroduced.
By 1995, the mixed use business park which is now home to the international airport, sculpture garden and nature trails began to take shape. Now, the 3,500 acre park generates $3.7 million in taxes annually (as of 2019 estimates); 5,890 employees from 25 countries work at the site; and 72 businesses and government agencies located in the park, according to Waters’ presentation.
After the base closure, approximately 240 acres had also been retained by the Air Force and other federal agencies for the Air Force Research Laboratory, Eastern Air Defense Sector among other entities.
Over the years, unusable buildings have been demolished, state Route 825 and railroad lines have been routed through the area to improve transportation and even the FAA’s Unmanned Aerial Systems test site designation - one of only seven in the United States - has found a home, Waters pointed out.
Park development momentum continues with in-process projects that include the Air City lofts apartment complex off of Hangar Road near Stewarts, and construction of the 780,000 square foot Orgill retail distribution center - across the street from Rome Free Academy - which is expected to near completion in 2022, she said.
“Griffiss could have been nothing...,” Waters concluded, pointing instead to work by community leaders and economic engines that have made the park home to many.
-For more information on the park, visit: www.GriffissBusinessPark.com
-To view the record 30-minute-long program video, visit: https://www.facebook.com/romehistorical