It was summertime. As a young student at Union College, I stood every weekday morning on a corner across the street from Schenectady's Ellis Hospital, just off the college campus, and was picked up by a school bus painted olive drab. It carried a painted-on U.S. Army license, but there were no uniforms on board; everybody was a civilian employee, and the bus took me to the neatest summer job I ever had. I wore my General Electric photo ID tag with its checkerboard border denoting "Secret" clearance, and watched an ongoing pinochle game that would only end as the bus pulled up to the gate that was flanked by two genuine V2 missiles. It was the summer of 1952, and I was working as an electronics technician and installer at the Malta Test Station (Hermes Project Rocket Test Site), run by General Electric for the U.S. Army.
|Walter Salm, Editor |
The tests were all static; the rocket was held in place while its engine fired to test various engine designs and fuel combinations. What a dream come true for an avid science fiction fan! I actually got my hands on some rocket engines helping to dismantle them after testing. During a typical test, a wall full of Honeywell strip chart recorders would spew hundreds of feet of paper onto the blockhouse's basement floor. But the rockets being tested were still very crude and I was dismayed, fully convinced that I would not live long enough to see men walk on the moon. How wrong I was.
The site is very different today. Gone are the rockets; instead there is a large state-of-the-art semiconductor manufacturing facility, part of an aggressive push by local officials to put Saratoga County on the map as a new iteration of Silicon Valley. The only reminder of the area's mysterious past is one of the street names in the Luther Forest Technology Campus: Rocket Way.
Saratoga itself has a wonderful and varied history. The Americans beat the British there during a pivotal early Revolutionary War battle. During the Victorian era, Saratoga Springs became a popular place to "go for the waters" — the area's natural mineral springs, which continue to be popular today. The city maintains a beautiful race track that opens for the month of August every year, when it's too hot and humid for horseracing fans to remain in New York City. And Saratoga's downtown has had a marvelous resurgence, becoming a very upbeat, artsy area with plenty of excellent shopping and dining.
Just a short distance from the beautiful Victorian city, a new revolution is under way as local promoters and companies strive to make the area into a new version of Silicon Valley in the Northeast. There was some precedent. About 100 miles south of Malta is a major IBM facility, and yes, they make semiconductors there, a lot of semiconductors. And Schenectady is still home to General Electric, although much of its manufacturing has moved elsewhere.
Today, Saratoga County's Luther Forest, a 1,400 acre technology campus, is home to GLOBALFOUNDRIES. The company's $6.8 billion Fab 8 is producing integrated circuits for IBM, Qualcomm, AMD, STMicroelectronics and others. There is also a $2 billion Technology Development Center under construction which will be the nucleus for research and development. Further, plans are in the works to build another Fab on site which will have an estimated cost of $15.7 billion and would make Luther Forest home to an estimated 6,700 high-tech workers.
To add to the mix, companies like IBM, Intel, TSMC, Samsung, GLOBALFOUNDRIES and New York State are investing $4.8 billion in nearby Albany, to build the world's first wafer and equipment development consortium to transition the semiconductor industry from current 300mm wafer technology to the new 450mm technology.
Now we are in a new era, called "reshoring", with more and more companies electing to build new facilities in the U.S. rather than take their production overseas. Areas of the country like the blossoming Tech Valley in New York's Capitol District (Albany, Schenectady, Troy, Cohoes, Saratoga, Rensselaer) have the wherewithal to make it happen sooner rather than later. The infrastructure is already in place, the area is brimming with colleges, universities and think tanks, and there is a large pool of semi-skilled, trainable labor available.
The nearby Adirondack Mountains offer a variety of recreational activities, bountiful lakes, fishing, hunting and hiking, and an abundance of winter sports. If your recreational tastes are more cosmopolitan, it's only 2-1/2 hours away from New York City by car or train, or a little over an hour by plane. And wait until you see the tax incentives!