Hours after the Empire Center highlighted the lack of documentation behind claims about the purported generational impact of the planned Micron “megafab” near Syracuse, the Hochul Administration published a pair of documents concerning the deal.
But on first perusal, the records — a packet outlining the terms of the deal and a study projecting its economic impact — raise more questions than they answer about what is already by far the largest gift to a private business in state history.
The documents are notable, first and foremost, for what they aren’t: the “Detailed Agreement” between state officials and Micron hasn’t been released, nor have related agreements with the county-owned industrial park and other local entities.
The project has been billed as costing $5.5 billion in state subsidies, presumably to be paid entirely in cash to Micron, since the company, as an upstate manufacturer, would already be exempt from the state’s corporate franchise tax. The bulk of the payments would be toward Micron’s capital costs: $2.4 billion of the $2.7 billion that would be paid between 2026 and 2035 would go toward “qualified investment.”
But what’s the total cost to the public? The documents show the company is poised to receive a slew of additional perks from the state and local governments, and a state-regulated utility. They include:
- A payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement that will trim $283 million in costs over 50 years
- A buildout of area sewer infrastructure, at a 20-year cost of $625 million, for which Micron would be billed as a high-volume user
- Discounted water from the Onondaga County Water Authority at a rate roughly 10 percent below that charged to other large industrial customers
- Discounted electricity from the state Power Authority (up to an amount equivalent to about one-third of the output of the state-owned hydroelectric plant at Niagara Falls)
- Economic development grants from National Grid worth about $22 million in discounted infrastructure upgrades
The return for the state, in terms of jobs or investment, is also uncertain.
The term sheet has few details about Micron’s “$100 billion” investment, which would come in two phases: $48 billion between 2026 and 2035, and $52 billion between 2036 and 2045.
How much were these costs inflated by the state’s insistence on requiring prevailing wages and a project labor agreement, policies that let state officials reward politically allied construction unions but artificially drive up costs?
A “preliminary schedule of benefits” contemplates a wide range of employment levels at the site in the first decade: for instance, the deal targets 4,040 jobs in 2029 — but sets a minimum level of just 2,020, expecting Micron to hit the 4,680-job target by 2035.
Mentions of “phase 2” are accompanied by words of uncertainty such as “potentially” and “anticipated.”
What’s to stop Micron from saying it needs even larger incentives to remain and expand in Phase 2? New York economic development officials have an illustrious record of getting put in that exact situation. For instance, the Alcoa aluminum manufacturing operation has gone multiple lucrative rounds with state officials desperate to prevent the North Country from losing a large manufacturer. The study assumes benefits will flow from the Micron project for at least a decade after the annual tax credit payments expire twenty years from now. Yet, the cost of any additional subsidies forked over by the state is not considered.
The documents say nothing about the opportunity cost of steering billions in tax dollars to Micron. How many jobs would be created if these billions were instead used to pay for infrastructure or returned to taxpayers in the form of lower rates?
One of the most notable parts of the economic impact study is that it was dated September 29 — a full week after state and Micron officials had already agreed on terms.
The study indicates the project would boost employment in New York by an average of 45,000 jobs between 2025 and 2055. But as the Rochester Beacon’s Kent Gardner wrote last week, the state’s public claims about the project appeared to reflect an unrealistic assumption about the spin-off effects of the project. The REMI authors say the state would get 5.5 jobs for every Micron job — which the term sheet has already indicated may not arrive. The authors conclude the state’s payments to Micron would more than pay for themselves by boosting tax revenues.
People hoping to see the upstate economy improve have reason to hope the claims about the Micron deal are accurate. But what recourse will New Yorkers have if they aren’t?