Governor Andrew Cuomo made it official Saturday: Alcoa will modernize the Massena East plant, protecting at least 900 jobs.
The 'official' press release - and a trip to Massena Saturday by Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy - only confirmed what everybody knew from about 6 pm Friday on, that Alcoa had decided to proceed with the modernization.
(Read, watch details of Duffy's apppearance in Massena here.)
Still, Saturday's statement was a welcome nod from the state's highest elected official, an assurance that the deal to preserve hundreds of badly needed jobs was done.
"Alcoa is a mainstay of the north country's economy and the surrounding vicinity, as the largest private-sector employer north of Syracuse," Cuomo said.
"New York state is committed to supporting the company's success as reflected by our partnership for the continued supply of low cost hydropower.
"The modernization of the Massena operations will further reinforce Alcoa's commitment to the region and secure their long term future so that we can keep good jobs here in the north country."
Alcoa gets low cost power from the state Power Authority. Under the terms of the pact, Alcoa will get 478 megawatts of power over a 30 year period with an option for a 10 year extension.
The only slight note of hesitation Saturday was in the details of the press release. It said Alcoa has committed to $42 million of the $600 million project, the $42 million going for 'site preparation.'
The press release noted the "potential construction of a new aluminum production potline, for which work is expected to begin in June." (Emphasis added)
Still, Alcoa officials had nothing but praise and encouragement Saturday.
“Thanks to the leadership of Governor Andrew Cuomo, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer and many other government officials, employees, union leaders and community members, we are ready to take this important step toward modernizing our Massena facilities," said Alcoa Executive Vice President and President of Global Primary Products Chris Ayers.
“Modernizing Massena will help us move farther down the aluminum cost curve and secure Alcoa’s place as a vital part of the North Country’s economy for decades to come," Ayers was quoted as saying in the Cuomo press release.
The last remaining piece is final approval by the Environmental Protection Agency of an agreement for Alcoa to clean up the Grasse River at a price tag of $243 million.
The $243 million is a favorable price for Alcoa, which dumped toxic waste in the river decades ago.
U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, who played a key role in securing the $243 million clean-up, is expected to renew his call for the Environmental Protection Agency to sign off on the agreement. Schumer announced plans Friday to visit Alcoa Monday.
The EPA has still not issued a final order, which would spell out what the company has to pay.
The $600 million modernization of Massena East, the former Reynolds Metals plant, would install a new line for the production of 144,000 metric tons of aluminum annually. Upgrades will also be made to the company's Massena West facility.
As word spread late Friday that Alcoa would modernize Massena East, and hundreds of jobs would be protected, there was relief in and around Massena.
"There's always doubt until something's accomplished," said Ernie LaBaff, retired president of the Aluminum, Brick & Glass Workers union. "The announcement coming Monday is confirmation of what we've all hoped for." (His comments were made before the official announcement was moved up to Saturday.)
"It's well received news for not just the village of Massena and its residents but all of the north country," said James Hidy, Massena's mayor.
An additional $10 million from the company will go to an economic development fund for north country projects.
The full text of the Cuomo press release...
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that Alcoa, a leading producer and miner in the aluminum industry, is prepared to move forward with the next phase of modernizing its Massena operations. The upgrade is called for under a contract with the New York Power Authority (NYPA) for the continued supply of low-cost hydropower from the St. Lawrence-Franklin D. Roosevelt Hydroelectric Plant as part of a long-term agreement to protect a minimum of 900 jobs at the aluminum production facilities.
Sunday, July 5, 2015, Watertown, NY
On Wall Street