2 companies eye Watertown Airport Business Park

Updated: Feb. 16, 2021 at 4:40 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Hundreds of new jobs are possible as two solar-related companies sign preliminary agreements to build manufacturing facilities at Jefferson County’s new business park.

Jefferson County Economic Development announced the agreement Tuesday morning with Convalt Energy, a New York City-based renewable energy company, and DigiCollect, an energy-related software company.

The two companies – both run by CEO Hari Achuthan – will be located in the Watertown Airport Business Park.

“This is transformational for the county and the region,” said JCED CEO David Zembiec.

Zembiec noted that it’s early in the process, but “we are optimistic about the job creation and economic growth possibilities it presents.”

Convalt Energy plans to build a 20,000-square-foot facility and employ 165 people. It plans to expand to 500,000 square feet and employ 525 people within five years.

DigiCollect plans to begin operations with 175 employees working out of a 5,000-square-foot facility, eventually expanding to 100,000 square feet and 1,535 workers in five years.

“We’re not looking to set up manufacturing just to make panels for the United States. That’s great, I think we will do that. But we do want to export to Africa, we do want to export to Asia, where there are many countries that say, give us another alternative than China,” said Achuthan.

“It’s going to employ people around the entire region. We’ll be drawing people from neighboring counties and expecting some spinoff benefits,” said Zembiec.

But why Jefferson County? Achuthan says part of it has to do with Fort Drum.

“We’re going to commit ourselves to hiring predominantly from Fort Drum, giving people coming out of the military the opportunity to get into jobs that are decent paying jobs,” he said.

At its meeting Tuesday morning, a Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency committee agreed to provide the companies with $750,000 in low-interest loans.

The JCIDA says it will work with other local and regional economic development agencies to create a total loan package of $1.25 million for each company.

Also to be worked out is what’s called a payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT, agreement. That’s when companies agree to pay an amount of money that’s less than what they would normally owe in taxes.

The preliminary agreement calls for a 20-year PILOT for each company. Convalt would pay $8 million and DigiCollect $4 million.

The deal needs to be approved by the full JCIDA board. It meets on February 18.

The PILOT agreements would need to be approved by local taxing entities.

Below is the news release from JCIDA.

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