By Joe Mahoney
The Daily Star
---- — SIDNEY — After suffering devastating floods twice in seven years, the Amphenol Aerospace factory, employing approximately 1,000 workers, will move into a new plant on higher ground in 13 months, officials said Tuesday.
The floods forced Amphenol to consider pulling up its stakes in the region and moving elsewhere, said U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
But company officials, the senator noted, wanted to keep the operation in the same region where it has turned out aerospace products for nearly 90 years. Schumer said he assisted in that goal by urging the federal Economic Development Administration to send a $3.8 million disaster-aid package to the Delaware County Industrial Development Agency.
Those funds, he said, will be used to make the site at 171 Delaware Ave. — near the K-Mart store — shovel-ready so construction can begin this spring.
Richard Aiken, general manager for Amphenol Aerospace, said the company will be making its own investment in the new site, but declined to give a price tag for the whole project, noting the company is a defense contractor in competition with other firms.
“This grant was integral in the financing for Amphenol to build a plant on higher ground in the Village of Sidney, which will create good jobs for many generations of future New Yorkers,” Aiken said.
Aiken estimated Amphenol will begin occupying the new complex April 30, 2014.
The new federal assistance being funneled into the project through the county IDA comes on the heels of a $20 million state business assistance and retention package that state economic development officials announced in late 2011.
“This was the last piece of the puzzle,” Schumer said of the new $3.8 million package that officials said will be used to provide the flood-safe site with storm water and filtration systems, sewer and water extensions, and an upgrade to the electrical system.
Schumer said he was convinced that Amphenol is highly deserving of the federal government’s generosity, and said he believes that most of the money will end up being returned to the government via taxes and Amphenol employees’ pay.
Amphenol, he said, “has stayed loyal to Delaware County where many other companies have picked up and left. ... It’s my view that since Amphenol has been here when we needed them, we should be there when they need us.”
The announcement of the new funding for the Amphenol move was also hailed by Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, who did not attend a press briefing held at the construction site, which is now partially wooded.
“With over 1,000 employees and 85 years of history in Delaware County, it was essential that we kept Amphenol in the area,” Gibson said in a statement.
Amphenol manufactures interconnect products for the military, commercial aerospace and industrial markets.
Schumer said getting a new plant on higher ground is crucial to Amphenol’s future, because if it stayed at its flood-prone location, its customers would wonder if their orders would be met in the event of another disaster.
He said he advised federal economic development officials that the project met the criteria for disaster funding eligibility, and would boost job-creation initiatives throughout the Southern Tier.
Asked if the opening of the new plant could add to additional workers for Amphenol, Aiken said that decision will hinge on business conditions and how the company weathers the so-called “sequestration” forces that are constricting federal spending.
Following Tropical Storm Lee in 2011, Amphenol reported that its Sidney plant sustained between $20 million and $35 million in damage.
More recently, Amphenol has advocated for the construction of the Constitution Pipeline, which could be potentially tapped for natural gas by companies, schools and other institutions that lack gas service.
Aiken said Amphenol remains very supportive of the project, and Schumer also said he wants to see the pipeline constructed.
“It’s going to bring jobs here,” Schumer said. “Jobs are No. 1.”
The pipeline is opposed by some local landowners whose property would be traversed by the underground pipe, as well as by groups opposed to shale gas drilling.