By Paul Post
Greg Connors has deep roots in Saratoga County, which makes him a good fit for growing its multifaceted economy with strong manufacturing, retail, hospitality, tourism and agricultural sectors.
After 10 years at GlobalFoundries, he took over as Saratoga Economic Development Corporation’s chief executive and president on Sept. 5.
A former Stillwater town supervisor, he was instrumental in creation of Luther Forest Technology Campus where GlobalFoundries is located. He was responsible for GlobalFoundries’ government relations in New York and Vermont where the company has a large manufacturing facility in Essex Junction near Burlington.
“I interacted with governors, legislators, regulators, regional and local governments in both states,” Connors said. “I think I took them as far as I could. It was simply time for a change. My main goal here at SEDC is to be more collaborative and cooperative with community and business stakeholders and economic developers throughout the county and Capital Region. I want to work with our staff and board of directors to enhance the image of SEDC going forward, and continue the work done by this organization over the last 40 years, which has had great success during that time.”
Connors succeeds Dennis Brobston, who retired Dec. 31 after 14 years at the agency.
Prior to joining GlobalFoundries, Connors was a real estate broker and appraiser for many years, and is a past president of the New York State Association of Realtors.
His family owns and operates The Connors Agency LLC, in Mechanicville, an insurance, real estate and financial services company started by his father 65 years ago and now run by Connors’ siblings. His wife and brother operate the more than century old Matrazzo Florist shop in Mechanicville.
SEDC board chair John Munter, co-owner of Munter Enterprises, said Connors was one of about 20 people who expressed interest in the top leadership position.
“Looking at his qualifications, Greg had a very good cross-section of family business involvement, some public service as a town supervisor and a lot of exposure into the big business world with GlobalFoundries,” he said.
With more than 200 members at various investment levels, SEDC has a nearly $1 million budget and a six-person staff comprised of three part-time and three full-time employees including Connors, who hinted that new hires might be needed.
“I’m anticipating a very active end of 2023, going into 2024,” he said. “As our workload increases, which is one of my goals, our staffing needs will certainly be addressed by the board of directors.”
The agency’s mission is creating jobs and growing the tax base while preserving the county’s attractive quality-of-life features such as open space and recreational opportunities. Most funding comes from members and SEDC also receives $200,000 from the county, as its main economic development provider.
Munter said job retention and workforce development are two other big challenges.
Essity paper company recently closed its huge South Glens Falls mill and plans to shutter a Greenwich converting facility and Saratoga Springs warehouse operation, costing the area about 300 jobs.
“We need to make sure that SEDC is touching base with small and large businesses in the region, making sure they’re getting everything they need to survive and stay here in the New York state economy, which is a challenge,” Munter said.
Connors said he’s already had discussions, trying to identify a new use for the sprawling South Glens Falls mill property.
“There are any one of a number of possibilities,” he said. “I’d rather not cite a specific one for the simple reason there are so many possibilities. I wouldn’t want to limit our imagination to any one sector.”
Workforce development is extremely critical as numerous employers, large and small, are having difficulty finding the help they need.
Connors foresees continued growth of the area’s solid retail base, highlighted by large new stores such as a Bass Pro Shop coming to Clifton Park.
SEDC might also play a key role in future development of the Route 9 corridor near Northway Exit 17 in Moreau. New municipal sewer service was recently installed that’s expected to spur considerable investment.
“That’s one of the last frontiers for growth in our county,” Munter said. “Back in the ‘60s, they thought it would be a huge growth area, which never really happened. We’re hoping that’s the next horizon for renewal.”
Connors is of course keeping a close eye on GlobalFoundries’ plans for a second large semiconductor plant at Luther Forest, which would create hundreds of construction jobs and an estimated 1,000 new permanent positions. The project will reportedly cost an estimated $9 billion.
“The industry has taken a little bit of a downturn in recent years,” Connors said. “Their CEO has said that when he gets the order to for a new facility in Saratoga County he’ll begin the construction process. Where that is today, I’m unsure. GlobalFoundries just announced an expansion and construction project completion in Singapore. New York and the United States is next.”
“I certainly think it’s going to begin in the next few years,” he said. “They’re already preparing applications to be submitted to the federal government with respect to the CHIPS and Science Act, and are preparing applications to state government for Green CHIPS legislation.
“The purpose of the CHIPS and Science Act was to promote 21st century advanced manufacturing here in the U.S. I know with GlobalFoundries being a trusted company, it’s a high priority with the federal government and with New York state’s aggressive effort to recruit 21st century manufacturers to the state, I think it’s going to happen in the near term.”
The CHIPS and Science Act, which President Biden signed into law in August 2022, is making a $53 billion investment in U.S. semiconductor research, development and production. It also creates a 25 percent tax credit for capital investments in semiconductor manufacturing.
The state program offers an additional $10 billion in investment incentives.
“SEDC will do whatever we can to support GlobalFoundries’ expansion here in Saratoga County,” Connors said.