Time to Cook Some Bacon in Luther Forest

On Monday, the Saratoga County Industrial Development Agency proposed issuing $70 million worth of bonds to GLOBALFOUNDRIES i...

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Following the Monday, April 15 public hearing on the amendments to the GLOBALFOUNDRIES Fab 8.2 environmental impact statement, discussion resumed among Malta officials at a Wednesday morning workshop. The meeting was another step in their continuing effort to parse out just how the possible expansion to the chip maker’s Luther Forest campus would take place.

The details of such an effort can at times take on a complexity akin to that of microchip fabrication itself.

“I try to look at this stuff, and it takes you five minutes to go back and figure out what each acronym stands for,” admitted Councilman John Hartzell during the workshop.

One component of GLOBALFOUNDRIES’ plan has proven especially difficult to figure out completely: traffic mitigation. But at the Wednesday workshop the biggest development addressed visual impacts.

The Ballston Journal/NEWSIn order to provide area residents and town officials with an idea of the scale and scope of the planned chip plant, a three-dimensional computer generated simulation will be created. The animated model will show the projected increased building height of Fab 8.2, with the stacks on top visible in some parts of the community, particularly on various points of Saratoga Lake.

There are significant benefits to using a digital model compared to simply using enlarged photographs, as is now done.

“There is value added to the digital version of it,” said Joe Lanaro of Chazen Engineering, “because that becomes something that you can keep for a long time.”

But Councilwoman Tara Thomas expressed dissatisfaction with using just the simulation and argued for a balloon test, so residents could physically see the height and location of the planned foundry.

“You can float more than one balloon … you can put up 8, 12, 20,” Thomas said. “I don’t see the harm in having both evaluations done.”

Balloons are floated over the approximate location of the plant to the proposed height of the stacks. The advantage of the test is balloons can be seen from anywhere, while the simulation only shows one basic view.

However, both essentially reveal where the visual impact would be greatest.

GLOBALFOUNDRIES Director of Risk Management, Sustainability, and Real Estate Steven Groseclose indicated he did not believe balloon testing to be necessary, since it had already been performed, though not following public notification.

“I’m sorry, Steve, is there a problem?” Thomas asked.

“It’s not a simple endeavor,” Groseclose said. He also pointed out the added expense of balloon testing on multiple days, which includes taking multiple photographs from different locations.

“You might want to check the math,” Groseclose said. “I paid the bill once. It’s around $10,000.”

Lanaro repeated the advantages of the simulation model several times, but also cited the cost of balloon testing as potentially not outweighing the benefit. Many seasonal Saratoga Lake residents would not be in their homes and therefore miss the testing, he pointed out.

“I’m not really concerned about that,” Thomas responded, noting that homeowner’s associations could relay information. Along with Councilwoman Maggie Ruisi, she insisted the “comfort level” of residents was a priority, despite town Supervisor Paul Sausville’s assertion he personally had only received one tangential comment related to visual impacts, ever.

The majority of public comments in previous meetings have been directed towards traffic issues and noise, although some have expressed concerns about property values being negatively affected by visual impacts.

“I think we need the simulation,” Sausville said, adding a “level of comfort” could perhaps be reached instead by public outreach efforts.

“I’d be satisfied with just the computer simulation,” Councilman Peter Klotz said.

The board ultimately settled for flying one or two balloons on a set date, with the public to be notified beforehand, in addition to the computer generated model. The model will be uploaded to the town’s website for viewing anytime.

The Malta Town Board will meet for their agenda meeting on April 29 at 6:30 p.m.

To contact the reporter on this story email wyatt@theballstonjournal.com

To contact the editor on this story email kevin@theballstonjournal.com 

All Pull Together Now

After first being proposed almost six years ago, it looks like construction of the left turn lane in front of McCrea Hill Ind...

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Malta: Despite Development, Vacancy An Issue

In a June 6, 2011 letter submitted to the Times Union in response to a Jay Holick blog post, Malta Town Supervisor Paul Sausville spoke of his vision of the town and the direction he thought it was going.

“We have … the very best form of growth that the community can be favored with,” he wrote.

Malta is, and was becoming, “truly the American dream for our residents.”

“However, success brings serious challenges,” he wrote. “Can we bring Malta the right kind of development?”

That particular question is being answered in different ways at every meeting of town government and every citizen’s discussion. It is, by any measure, a work in progress, and development in Malta is still far from where many expected it to be.

There are two good indicators of the status of development in the town: Economically, what is the market for real estate? Visually, what does Malta actually look like?

Vacant storefronts at Ellsworth Commons in Malta. Photo by Wyatt Erchak

Vacant storefronts at Ellsworth Commons in Malta. Photo by Wyatt Erchak

The real estate market is relatively strong, but uneven. According to statistics provided by Pinnacle Realty in the Malta Business and Professional Association’s April newsletter, there are 99 single family homes on the market, with an average price of about $300,000. Fourteen homes have been sold this year, and houses stay on market for an average of 118 days.

Pinnacle Realty’s Director of Relocations Monica DiSchiano said the market has shifted from a buyer’s to a seller’s market.

“Inventory is low and demand is high for both residential sales and rentals,” DiSchiano said in an email. “There are so few rentals that they often lease out on the first day they are listed.”

In one recent instance DiSchiano rented out a townhome in Luther Forest in a matter of three hours, she said. Yet one aspect of the market’s economics should be driving home sales rather than rentals.

“Rent prices are high, which has many people realizing that it is more affordable to buy than it is to rent,” she said, citing a Trulia statistic which showed it is 30 percent cheaper to buy than rent in the Capital Region.

And because the inventory of listed homes is low, new residents, such as workers at GLOBALFOUNDRIES, often need to look elsewhere. But DiSchiano says homes “aren’t all jumping off the shelf either,” despite the low inventory.

In Luther Forest, there are a number of homes listed, but only the updated, energy-efficient units are selling fast. And there is an important demographic factor affecting the market as well. “Not many people relocating here from other states are interested in townhomes,” DiSchiano said, because most new residents are “mid-level employees with a conservative budget.”

All of this makes for the uneven situation in Malta. On the one hand, many new employees at GLOBALFOUNDRIES and other major local projects are eager to live and work in the community; on the other, there just are not enough affordable options for the kind of workers coming in.

Meanwhile, the town is steadily moving ahead with development. GLOBALFOUNDRIES is of course the main project, and the town board has been hard at work on the process of granting approval for their possible expansion to a second chip foundry, Fab 8.2. Should the second plant actually be built, it would bring thousands more employees to the area. Meanwhile, construction has already begun on the new Technology Development Center adjoining Fab 8.1, and National Grid is building a new four-mile gas pipeline to feed GLOBALFOUNDRIES’ growing energy needs.

Both the Malta town board and the town’s planning board have been regularly approving additions to sub-developments, as with Woodfield Estates, adding residential and commercial space.

But the official focus remains on creating a viable “downtown” for Malta along the Route 9 corridor. Some development along Route 9 is obvious, most especially the looming Ellsworth Commons. However, a drive down Route 9 also reveals something else to the discerning eye: vacant properties.

Beginning at the Malta border with Saratoga Springs, and continuing down to Clifton Park, a visual count of the number of “for rent/lease/sale” signs totals around 40. From the southern border of Round Lake down Route 9 to the Arbor Hill section of Albany, the number comes to approximately 50. So Malta-Round Lake on its own contains nearly half of the vacant or available properties visibly advertising in the entire length of the Route 9 corridor between Saratoga and Albany.

A vacant lot just off the intersection of Route 9 and Dunning Street in Malta. Photo by Wyatt Erchak

A vacant lot just off the intersection of Route 9 and Dunning Street in Malta. Photo by Wyatt Erchak

The number of empty lots and spaces is accompanied by a comparatively higher number of empty and decaying buildings. Drive south from Malta’s “downtown” area, and within seconds there is a blighted gas station, an overgrown plaza, and lots strewn with litter, constituting what could reasonably be called “suburban blight,” in place of the more regularly used “urban” term.

DiSchiano told the Journal she wasn’t used to seeing many “rundown buildings” when she moved to the area from Austin, Texas.

“It doesn’t make sense to me why they wouldn’t want to sell off the land to all these developers coming in,” she said.

DiSchiano believes the answer to increasing property values would be to tear down the abandoned buildings and let the developers come in and put up nicer ones in their place.

“They would be easy to fill if offered for lease at a decent price,” she said.

But “nice buildings” like Ellsworth Commons have also fallen victim to the problem of vacancy and Malta’s uneven development. A large percentage of the commercial space at the Commons is virtually empty, while many of its apartments are rented out.

“It isn’t easy to find good commercial space in Malta, it’s very scarce,” DiSchiano said. “I ask people what they think of Ellsworth Commons and they say there’s not enough parking. If they had put parking spaces along the frontage of Route 9, it would have helped them tremendously.”

“Clearly,” she added, “business owners don’t want to rely on just walk-in traffic from Ellsworth residents.”

Nationally, the vacancy rate in commercial properties is expected to reach 15.9 percent by the end of the year, and rents are projected to rise by 2.6 percent, according to the National Association of Realtors. For retail, the numbers are forecast to be a 10.6 percent vacancy rate and a 2.3 percent rise in rents. Industrial space should see a 9.5 percent vacancy rate and 2.3 percent rent rise, and the vacancy rate for apartments should hold steady at 3.9 percent (down from 5.2 percent in 2011) with rents going up by 4.3 percent.

DiSchiano explained that while she gets people looking for commercial space weekly, Ellsworth Commons is “too expensive, starting at $18 per square foot, plus triple net,” meaning tenants pay all taxes, insurance, and maintenance fees.

Development, then, is a mixed bag in Malta. Many properties are half-filled or empty even as the need is high, while some decay in neglect. Commercial space is a hard sell in some cases, even though there are more workers spending their money in the community.

In a message to residents posted on his biography page on the town’s website, Supervisor Sausville wrote “Expect to see a continuation of the transformation of Malta from a bedroom community to a real town with a ‘sense of place;’ a sense of community and a real sense of home.”

Until that transformation is complete, Malta residents may have to accept the uneven pace of development which has so far come with it.

To contact the reporter on this story email wyatt@theballstonjournal.com

To contact the editor on this story email kevin@theballstonjournal.com

GLOBALFOUNDRIES gears up for growth


On Friday, Feb. 1 GLOBALFOUNDRIES submitted an application to the Town of Malta containing proposed amendments to the company’s Planned Development District (PDD), which includes the Fab 8.1 chip manufacturing plant in Luther Forest. The move is meant to pave the way for the possible construction of a second chip foundry, Fab 8.2, at the site.

“This early planning work is part of our strategy to evaluate capacity expansion opportunities around the world in order to support long-term customer demand and achieve our global business objectives,” said Travis Bullard, GLOBALFOUNDRIES’ senior manager for public affairs and communications, in an email to the Journal. “As we continue to grow our business, we continue to invest resources in advanced planning to meet the future needs of our growing customer base.”

The Ballston Journal, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, Town of MaltaAccording to the company’s Industry Requirement Report, officials at GLOBALFOUNDRIES are in the process of assessing the feasibility of the project and would make a separate determination on whether to proceed sometime in the near future. Market conditions and the readiness of the site for immediate development would be key factors in the decision.

“GLOBALFOUNDRIES must be secure in the knowledge that the site is compatible with its operational needs and ready for construction at the appropriate time,” the IRP reads. “Therefore, GLOBALFOUNDRIES is pursuing amendments to local law necessary to satisfy the programming prerequisites for the project.”

The company followed a similar pattern last year in seeking approval to build a Technology Development Center (TDC) at the Luther Forest campus before actually committing to the project. The Malta town planning board granted the necessary approvals in October 2012. Last month, the company announced they are going ahead with the TDC and will begin work on the facility in March.

Fab 8.2, if built, would be slightly larger at just under 1.9 million square feet than Fab 8.1, which is just over 1.7 million square feet overall. The building height would be 125 feet with appurtenances, as opposed to 110 feet at the first plant.

After an approved expansion last year, the clean room at Fab 8.1 now totals 300,000 square feet. The clean room at Fab 8.2 would total 475,000 square feet.

GLOBALFOUNDRIES currently employs around 2,000 people at Fab 8.1 and its administration building. The TDC is expected to add another 1,000 jobs. If the chip maker proceeds with Fab 8.2 it would need to employ around 2,000 additional personnel at the Luther Forest campus.

“While we are only in the initial design and planning phase this project, our global business continues to grow and we are excited about the possibility of expanding our investment and capabilities in New York,” Bullard said in his email.

According to a statement by GLOBALFOUNDRIES president and CEO Ajit Manocha at SUNY Albany’s College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering last month, the total cost of a new plant, wherever it is built, would be about $10 billion. Between Fab 8.1, the administration building and the TDC, GLOBALFOUNDRIES has invested approximately $8.5 billion in Luther Forest so far, including almost $2 billion in tax incentives.

During the height of construction activity at Fab 8.1 contractors employed between 1,500 and 2,000 people on site at any given time. M + W US, Turner Construction and LeChase Construction had a either a lead or significant role in various stages of the project.

M + W US was lead contractor on Fab 8.1, while Turner built the adjoining administration building, designated Admin 2. No announcement has been made on the companies to be tapped for any future project.

GLOBALFOUNDRIES is the currently the fastest-growing chip maker in the world, according to company documents. Last year saw sales increase by approximately 31 percent year over year.

The company’s most significant competitor, Taiwan Semiconductor, is also reportedly eyeing a new manufacturing facility somewhere in the world, but has given no hint as to where.

GLOBALFOUNDRIES will make a formal presentation on its application at special meeting of the Malta Town Board on Tuesday, Feb. 12 at 6:30 p.m. at Malta Town Hall, 2540 Rt. 9. The meeting is open to the public.

To contact the reporter and editor on this story email kevin@theballstonjournal.com 


Company commits to final stage of construction; clean room to top out at 300k sq. ft.

In a July 24 press release, GLOBALFOUNDRIES announced it is moving forward with the final construction for the extension of Module 1 at the Fab 8 campus in Malta. The project will add 90,000 square feet of manufacturing capacity, bringing the total capacity for Fab 8 Module 1 to 300,000 square feet.

Construction activities are scheduled to begin in August and work is expected to be completed in December 2013.

“During the construction of Fab 8, we extended the shell of the Module 1 building with the expectation that our business would continue to grow,” Eric Choh, vice president and general manager of Fab 8, said in the statement. “Today we see increasingly strong demand from our customers, especially at the 28nm node, and we are excited to be moving forward with this next phase in the development of the Fab 8 campus. By continuing to expand our investment in the project, GLOBALFOUNDRIES is delivering more options to our global customers, while helping to redefine upstate New York as a premier hub of the global semiconductor industry, creating thousands of new advanced manufacturing jobs, and contributing billions of dollars to the regional economy.”

Consisting of approximately two million square feet of clean room space, Fab 8 is being developed as the world’s most advanced semiconductor foundry manufacturing facility and is consistently hitting all major development milestones, the company said.

GLOBALFOUNDRIES began construction on Fab 8 in July 2009 and began moving people and equipment into the facility in mid-2011. Initial wafer starts began earlier this year and the facility is on track to begin risk production by the end of the year, with volume production in early 2013, the company said.

Extending the Fab 8 cleanroom is expected to increase the Fab 8 capacity to approximately 60,000 wafers per month and increase the capital budget by approximately $2.3 billion, taking the total capital budget from $4.6 billion to approximately $6.9 billion, once tools and equipment are installed, the company said.

Since breaking ground on Fab 8 in 2009, GLOBALFOUNDRIES has created more than 1,500 new direct jobs, developing a unique and diverse workforce drawn from local talent in the region as well as experienced professionals from across the United States and more than 30 countries, the statement said.

In addition, the project has created an additional 4,300 construction-related jobs and established the largest private Project Labor Agreement in history, generating hundreds of millions of dollars of economic development throughout upstate New York during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, the company said.

GLOBALFOUNDRIES has a total of about 1,800 employees across New York, including research teams at the IBM facilities in East Fishkill and at CNSE at the University of Albany, and more than 12,000 employees worldwide with additional manufacturing campuses in Germany and Singapore.

GLOBALFOUNDRIES was spunoff from parent company Advanced Micro Devices in March 2009. Earlier this year the company completed its separation from AMD and is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Advanced Technology Investment Company (ATIC) of Abu Dhabi.

At the time it was begun, Fab 8 Module 1 was the largest private construction project undertaken in the United States. Once completed, it is expected to employ over 1,800 people.

For information, visit the company website at www.globalfoundries.com.

GloFo sets stage for expansion

Chip maker puts pieces in place for next move


GLOBALFOUNDRIES has submitted site plan amendment applications with the towns of Malta and Stillwater to clear the way for the final construction, fit up and operations of the second phase of the chip maker’s Fab 8 project in Luther Forest, according to Travis Bullard, Senior Manager for Public Affairs and Communications at the company.

“Although we have not yet made a final decision to move forward with this phase of the project at this time, we are working with the town planning boards now in order to secure the necessary site plan approvals,” Bullard said. “These site plan approvals will allow us to move forward quickly if and when we decide to fully build out the Phase 2 section of Fab 8, Module 1.”

The completed phase of the project is a 210,00-sq. ft. clean room which began operations in January, and is designated Phase 1 of Fab 8, Module 1. Phase 1 is in the process of ramping to full production and is expected to reach that level by the end of the year.

Approval to build the shell of the 90,000-sq. ft. second phase was granted before the first phase was complete, but GLOBALFOUNDRIES has not sought the necessary permissions to equip it for production until now. There are no immediate plans to fit the second phase out, but because of the long lead times involved between the decision to make more chips to meet new product demand and the actual achievement of full capacity production the company decided to pave the way sooner rather than later.

“Because timing is so critical to our business, we regularly invest resources in advanced planning and site plan development to meet potential future requirements,” Bullard said. “This work is necessary to inform our business decisions and ensure we are capable of executing plans in the necessary timeframe.”

GLOBALFOUNDRIES also has the potential to build two more modules at the Luther Forest site in the future should market conditions justify increasing production to that level. Neither would likely be as big as Module 1, but together would have the potential to more than double the production capacity of Fab 8 as a whole.

The company as yet has no plans to move forward on such a large-scale expansion. “As our business continues to grow, we believe that the foundation for additional expansion certainly exists here in New York,” Bullard said. “However, the decision to expand in New York is determined by a number of complex factors, including customer demand, global market conditions, and the ability of the public sector to continue developing the right conditions for success.”

GLOBALFOUNDRIES was spun off from Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) in early 2009 and achieved full independence in March of this year. The company is now wholly-owned by Advanced Technology Investment Company (ATIC) of Abu Dhabi.

In January of this year the foundry announced they had begun joint manufacture of advanced computer chips with IBM at both Fab 8 and IBM’s East Fishkill, N.Y. plant. The chips are based on IBM technology jointly developed by IBM, GLOBALFOUNDRIES and other members of IBM’s Process Development Alliance, including the University at Albany’s College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, according to a Jan. 10 press release from GLOBALFOUNDRIES.

The $4.6 billion Fab 8 plant is the largest private construction project undertaken in the country in the last several years.

EDITORIAL: Roll up the sleeves

After nine revisions and months of debate and discussion Malta has finally amended its noise ordinance. Everyone, from citize...

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