April 26, 2013

Editorial: Stepping up to save facility


---- — The fact that local investors are buying the former Pfizer research facility in Chazy holds great promise for progress in revitalizing that site.

After Pfizer purchased the Wyeth plants in Rouses Point, Chazy and Plattsburgh, more than 600 local jobs began to be phased out. It was a devastating blow because the positions there had, for decades, been steady and higher-paying than most in the area.

The varied economic-development forces from Clinton County and New York state stepped forward to offer job training, employment help and financial aid. Joined by town, county, state and federal officials, they also applied pressure on Pfizer to follow through on its promise to help secure new tenants for the Chazy facility.

But, Pfizer’s attention was not as lasting as locals had hoped, and people here became concerned about what they saw as lackluster marketing of the site.

As recent as two years ago, it looked like the Chazy facility was headed for demolition. It was local and state forces to the rescue again: The Clinton County IDA formed Clinton Industrial Development Acquisition LLC in March 2012 and bought the property, assessed at $12 million, a few months later for $1. Then Empire State Development offered up to $1.2 million to keep the building in usable condition and market it for a couple of years.

About $698,801 of that money has been spent — and it looks like it was worth every penny of investment because a deal has been worked out that will bring life and jobs to the facility.

Clinton Industrial Development Acquisition will sell the site to Victor and Stephen Podd, local developers who own the Rouses Point-based Powertex plant, which manufactures bulk-shipping equipment.

The Podds, operating as Northstar Private Capital LLC, plan to move their Sealiner manufacturing operation from Texas to the Chazy facility. That will create about 22 jobs, and then the rest of the building will be marketed as research, warehouse and distribution space.

Victor Podd, who brought his business to Clinton County from Quebec, had long ago established himself as a respected businessman and good employer, with his son carrying on the family dedication to this area.

Clearly, people with strong local ties will have more of a vested interest in seeing the Chazy facility thrive than corporate marketers based in New York City.

The whole salvation and resurrection of this site is a testament to what can be achieved when local people take charge of a potentially devastating situation, much like what happened after Plattsburgh Air Force Base was shuttered.

Locals can’t do it alone — they need state and federal help. And they have to work with united purpose.

But when they do it right, as in this case, they can muster the energy and resources to overcome most any economic challenge.