by Rezsin Adams
ALBANY, NY: Helen Desfosses, President of the Albany City Council, and professor at the University at Albany in Public Administration, spoke about SEMETECH at Save the Pine Bush’s July vegetarian/vegan lasagna dinner.
The University at Albany is the new home of SEMETECH North. This is a very important development for the University and the region. How did this come about? Helen Desfosses gave us some answers. The University built the buildings, IBM invested hundreds of millions of dollars in research, and the State of New York added to the funding as well. The University has the largest "clean room" in the United States and one of the largest "clean room" facilities in the world. What does SEMETECH North mean? According to Ms. Desfosses, SEMETECH North means jobs.
To get some idea of the impact of this large research center on our region, a group of University and community leaders visited Austin, Texas to learn of the impact on that city of the SEMETECH facility established six years ago. Austin, like Albany, is the state capital and home to the state university, the University of Texas. Although Austin was a much larger city to begin with than Albany, the population of Austin has doubled in the last ten years and the number of high tech jobs has increased from 38,000 to 150,000. Many more of the University of Texas graduates are staying in the area and there are now thousands of non-professional jobs as well. Ten years ago only 10% of University of Texas graduates stayed in the area. Today 30% find jobs and stay. It is doubtful if even 10% of University at Albany graduates stay in our area.
But there have been some unfortunate, unanticipated, unplanned, developments as well: sprawl, congestion, and increased unemployment among inner-city minorities. This kind of high-tech development can have the effect of increasing the divide between the haves and the have-nots. Our region and the Pine Bush should benefit from SEMETECH coming here. This is a tough region in which to be talking about regionalization. A start has been made but it hasn’t gone nearly far enough. Landing SEMETECH–a code word for all kinds of high-tech development–has put Albany on the map. But there hasn’t been very good planning in this area and it is clear from the Austin experience that planning is essential.
Professional workers are not just interested in quality of life issues; they are interested in quality of place issues, too. High-tech workers are university-trained and are interested in our University and our environment (including the Pine Bush.)
Helen Desfosses suggests that there will be new outreach opportunities for Save the Pine Bush. SEMETECH itself is interested in the environment its facilities are situated in and may be receptive to making some funds available. We will need to explore the possibility.
In the area of non-professional jobs that will open up, the University is already working with Albany High School, Schenectady County Community College and Hudson Valley Community College in developing training courses. This too will benefit our area. Issues to be tackled are air quality, good public transportation and making sure that moderately-priced housing continues to be available. With good planning we should rise with the tide and prosper.