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RACER: No companies visiting Massena GM site

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MASSENA — No prospective companies have visited the General Motors Powertrain site this year, according to redevelopment officials.

The site’s owner, the Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response Trust, is tasked with selling the site off and facilitating its cleanup. RACER staff previously promised local officials they will market the site to generate interest from companies. A marketing document highlighting the Massena site’s assets is available on RACER’s website.

There is more interest in RACER’s several dozen former GM properties across the country this year than last, Assistant Redevelopment Manager Patricia Spitzley said after this week’s meeting of the North Country Redevelopment Task Force. But that interest has not translated to prospective companies visiting Massena, she said.

“We have not had anyone in the last three months ... express an interest in the Massena property as to look at it,” she said. “None have gotten to the point where we’ve had tours of the site.”

RACER recently attended the Canadian Auto Show and talked to seven Canadian suppliers looking to have a presence in the United States. Two were interested in some of RACER’s properties, but Massena was not on that list, she said. The packet RACER provided at the show included information on Massena, she said.

Ms. Spitzley is also planning to visit the U.S. Consulate in Montreal to network with aerospace and aviation companies. One of the best uses for the site is a Canadian company needing a presence in the U.S. for aerospace or defense, she said.

The lack of visits is not atypical, she said.

“We’ve had properties that have had several visits. We’ve had properties that have had none. ... It’s just a part of the process,” she said. “I know this is an area of concern for the community. It should be.”

Richard Daddario, business manager of Laborers Local 322, asked Ms. Spitzley if RACER was also marketing the property to American companies. There are some obstacles in Massena for a U.S. company looking for a new location, Ms. Spitzley said.

“Massena is in a unique situation,” Ms. Spitzley said. “You’re not on a main highway.”

The comment touched a nerve at the meeting. Siting the proposed Interstate 98 from Watertown to Plattsburgh has been a longtime topic for debate.

“It’s not a revelation,” Mr. Daddario said. “It’s just a sore topic.”

The “best chance” for success is landing a Canadian company, Ms. Spitzley said. “There are tremendous opportunities to be had in marketing the property to Canadians,” she said. “I’m trying to market the best attributes.”

Cleanup officials said it could be at least a year before the site is ready for redevelopment. Portions of the site will be occupied by cleanup crews this year and next, Project Manager Anne E. Kelly said.

“We’re in the middle of a massive cleanup,” Ms. Kelly said.

Officials from the St. Regis Mohawk tribe, whose reservation is adjacent to the GM site, have announced their interest in buying and redeveloping the property as a business park. While declining to elaborate, Chief Ronald W. LaFrance said this week that the Tribal Council was not planning to annex the property, nor would it use the site for cigarette or auto manufacturing.

Ms. Spitzley said she could not comment on any specific party’s interest due to confidentiality requirements.

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