SARANAC LAKE - Village officials are seeking help from the Franklin County Industrial Development Agency to construct a 10,000-square-foot, move-in-ready building to house biotech and manufacturing businesses.
Mayor Clyde Rabideau and village Community Development Director Jeremy Evans traveled to Malone in late January to meet with IDA Executive Director John Tubbs and Franklin County Manager Thomas Leitz.
"We're exploring opportunities with the IDA for an incubator building, a small industrial building in the village, which we have to have," Rabideau said last week. "Part of the success of the Clinton County Development Corporation is that they have move-in-ready facilities - not shovel-ready, but move-in-ready. There are no hassles for companies coming down from Quebec. They just move right in. If we had a modest facility like that, I know we could fill it up."
Asked where in the village such a facility could be located, Rabideau didn't name any specific sites but indicated that it would be on village-owned property.
"Since we don't have a lot of money, we've got to work with the land that we have," he said.
One of largest undeveloped, village-owned parcels is the 10-acre village sand-pit property of of Will Rogers Drive, although Rabideau said he thinks that site has more potential for retail, as opposed to manufacturing or biotech. Last year, Rabideau said one possible site for an incubator building would be 400 Broadway, an undeveloped property the village acquired several years ago that was the site of an environmental contamination clean-up effort in the last few years.
The mayor said the village sought the IDA's help because of its business development expertise, its tax-exempt status and its ability to bond for such projects.
Based on the dialogue at the meeting, Rabideau said the IDA wants to work with the village but needs to see "the whole package."
"We have to have land, or a contract on land, building costs, building plans, and in this particular instance, we've got to have a ready tenant," the mayor said. "We're right now working with one, possibly two tenants that can carry the nut, as we say in real estate. Once we've got that, it becomes a solid business investment because it has to make business sense for the IDA."
Tubbs told the Enterprise that the discussions are in the preliminary stages but said the agency wants to help the village.
"The likelihood is we would have to bond for that or we would assist in some fashion to help Saranac Lake accomplish construction of a building," Tubbs said. "We haven't built a spec building before. But IDAs in adjacent counties have. We have good relationships with them, and we can talk with them about how they've gone about building their spec buildings."
As Rabideau indicated, Tubbs said the IDA's board of directors would like to know that the village has an interested tenant before it gets too deep into the project.
The meeting in Malone was the latest effort by village officials to build on their success last year in attracting two biotech companies to Saranac Lake. Myriad RBM and Active Motif plan to relocate from Lake Placid to a pair of municipally owned buildings on Main Street.
Several weeks after agreements with those companies were announced in late June, village officials traveled to Laval, Quebec (near Montreal) to visit the Quebec Biotechnology Innovation Centre, a large business incubator specializing in life sciences and health technologies. Rabideau, Trustee John McEneany, Village Manager John Sweeney and Nelson Pleau of Trudeau Institute made the one-day trip and toured the facility.
"The director sat down and talked with us for well over an hour about how they attract companies, how they retain them and what his take on the future was," Rabideau said. "We went there to learn and to establish a relationship with them just in case there was any opportunity for a company that wanted to have a U.S. presence or a non-urban presence."
Rabideau said the thing he took away from the visit was that there is a tremendous amount of competition out there for biotech.
"It was intimidating," he said. "They have one heck of a facility, and they have a really integrated team of programs and people in place to nurture new biotech companies. We're not that big, we don't have those types of resources. But I was impressed with their operation. It was fascinating, and I'm glad we went up there."