Jefferson County could be involved in one of the largest job creation projects in the North Country in decades.
The ACO Investment Group, a company with projects in Asia and Africa, wants to build a production facility for solar modules and a software development company in the Watertown region. Developers say the project could create up to 2,000 jobs in five years. But there are still many hurdles before it becomes a reality.
ACO is the parent company of two companies, each developing plans for Jefferson County.
Convalt Energy operates half a dozen solar, wind and other renewable projects in countries like Myanmar, Laos and India. Further projects are under development in Chad and Sierra Leone.
The company has existed for eight years and is based in New York City. CEO Hari Achuthan says the next step in his growth is manufacturing. Hence, it has its sights set on Watertown, which it believes has a number of positive traits, including nearby Fort Drum and a steady number of people leaving the army looking for jobs, inexpensive electricity, and a good climate to keep equipment cool to keep.
“For the digital business, we like cold areas where the cooling costs are reduced when building a data center.” Said Achuthan. “We have low electricity costs. You have fort drum with work. They have colleges surrounding it. You have a lot of land if we want to develop. “
Many steps still to become one of the largest new job creators in the region in years. Since August, Achuthan has been working with Jefferson County on the huge project – two new facilities, both in a business area of the county near Watertown Airport in the city of Hounsfield. Solar modules would be manufactured as Convalt Energy with an initial staff of 165 employees. The other would manufacture energy sensors for power transmission lines as DigiCollect and initially employ 175 people.
If the projects go as planned, the numbers will be staggering: a $ 650 million investment; up to 2,000 jobs over five years in the two plants; $ 12 million in regional tax base over two decades.
Dave Zembiec, CEO of Jefferson County Economic Development, says the projects could be transformative for the entire region. “We feel great about it, and not just for the county.” Zembiec said adding the jobs would be well paid.
“Factory jobs for the production-level jobs in the manufacturing facility and DigiCollect, a software company, will have a high percentage of software developers.” Zembiec said.
But there are still a lot of moving parts in this deal. Achuthan is still hiring investors. He is negotiating with New York's Empire State Development Corporation over incentives for job creation, low-cost electricity and other tax breaks.
Jefferson County's local and regional business developers are working on a $ 2.5 million loan package for the two companies.
All sides say that one of the facilities could lay the foundation stone for the construction at the end of this year or early 2022 at the earliest.
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