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County Executive Metzger’s Workforce Innovation Center at iPark87 Green-lit by County Legislature

Aug 22, 2023

Center to connect students with high-paying jobs and job training

- The Ulster County Legislature approved a lease agreement at its August 15 meeting, greenlighting County Executive Metzger’s plans to create a Workforce Innovation Center for the Green Economy at iPark87, the site of the former IBM Kingston facility in the Town of Ulster. The Center will be a national model of collaboration in which the County, educational institutions, and community-based partners will work together with employers to develop curriculum, micro-credentials, apprenticeships, and other programs that create pathways for local workers into good-paying, family-sustaining jobs at iPark87 and elsewhere in the county. The County Executive envisions co-locating three interconnected County Offices at the site: Economic Development, Employment and Training, and Tourism. This strategic arrangement aims to enhance interdepartmental collaboration – fostering synergy with the Workforce Innovation Center and maximizing collective efforts.

Ulster County and the Hudson Valley region could see tens of thousands of new jobs in manufacturing, buildings, transportation, renewable energy, and other green economy sectors as a result of nearly $400 billion in federal investments under President Biden’s flagship Inflation Reduction Act to fight climate change and catalyze domestic manufacturing in clean technologies.  Two other major pieces of federal legislation initiated by the Biden administration and passed by Congress in 2021 and 2022, respectively, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and CHIPS for America Act, also focus on spurring domestic manufacturing in cutting-edge industries and green technologies and are expected to create hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country. The Workforce Innovation Center will not only prepare the local workforce to take advantage of these new opportunities but will also attract new industries to Ulster County seeking qualified workers.

The Ulster County Economic Development Agency (UCEDA) will hold the master lease with iPark87 to enable a long-term (10-year) lease agreement with the County. Ulster County Economic Development Director Kevin Lynch, who was appointed by County Executive Metzger and confirmed by the Legislature at the same meeting, will take over as President & CEO of UCEDA. Lynch comes to Ulster County with over 25 years of experience managing business development and public finance, as well as a background in clean technologies. He has worked in multiple roles for various private equity, corporate finance, government, and nonprofit entities. Lynch most recently served as the Director of Clean Energy for the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA), where he oversaw the authority’s various financing programs for clean energy, including offshore wind, vehicle electrification, and business loans for clean energy-related projects. 

Under the terms of the lease, UCEDA will sublease 20,000 square feet of space in the main building on the east campus of iPark87 to accommodate the three County department offices and a flex space for workforce training, conferences, and meetings. SUNY New Paltz and SUNY Ulster will each lease an additional 10,000 sq ft of space in the same building for the Workforce Innovation Center.

In addition to approving the lease, the County Legislature passed a related resolution enabling the County Executive to apply for up to $1 million in funding from NYS Empire State Development to support programming for the Workforce Innovation Center in collaboration with educational and community-based partners.

County Executive Jen Metzger first announced plans to create the Workforce Innovation Center at her State of the County Address in February, pointing out that “shifting to a green economy isn’t just good for our climate and our health – it is also a massive job creator.”  

County Executive Metzger is seeking to make these new opportunities broadly available by addressing barriers that have kept historically underserved populations from taking advantage of them in the past. “We're going to break those barriers down by offering childcare on-site and making major investments in our UCAT system to get people there. This will become a national model for workforce development in the 21st century,” said Ulster County Executive Jen Metzger

In March, Governor Kathy Hochul visited iPark87 to announce a major investment from New York State to support the siting of a new large-scale zinc-based battery manufacturing company called Zinc8, which the company says will create hundreds of new jobs in the next few years. Other green energy economy companies also plan to locate their operations on the site, including Cadenza, another battery storage company, and Archtop, a fiber optics company, which has already leased a portion of the building adjacent to the County space and is expected to add 100 new jobs by year’s end. 

In May, Governor Hochul returned to the site with another major announcement, this time to award a competitive $10 million Restore New York Communities grant from Empire State Development that the County secured to help make iPark87 a hub for clean energy industries. 

Jen Metzger, Ulster County Executive said, “I am thrilled that the Ulster County Legislature has given the green light to our ambitious plans for the Workforce Innovation Center at iPark87. This project is truly transformational for Ulster County, involving a unique collaboration of educational and community-based partners and businesses working together to equip our workforce with the training and skills necessary to take advantage of job opportunities in green tech and clean energy industries at iPark87 and across the county. These are the fastest growing sectors in the economy, thanks to state and federal efforts to tackle climate change, and we need to position ourselves to make the most of these opportunities.” 

Legislator Brian Cahill (D-Town of Ulster), Chair of the Economic Development, Tourism, Housing, Planning & Transit Committee said, "The Workforce Innovation Center is something that we have discussed from the first meetings about iPark 87. I am thrilled and grateful that my Legislative colleagues have supported this idea that will benefit the entire County by providing the necessary skills and vocational training needed going forward. We need to bring the training to the jobs and the jobs to the training. This center will achieve those goals.”

Legislator Herb Litts (R-Town of Lloyd), Deputy Chair of the Economic Development, Tourism, Housing, Planning & Transit Committee said, "Today marks a significant leap toward securing Ulster County's economic future. With the green light from the County Legislature, we're on track for a brighter and more prosperous tomorrow. The Workforce Innovation Center at iPark87 is not just a plan; it's a collaborative force that's connecting education, partnerships, and job opportunities. As Deputy Chair of Economic Development, I'm truly excited to be part of this game-changing initiative. Our goal is to equip our community for success in emerging job sectors and ignite innovation that defines the next generation of Ulster County’s economy."

Dr. Alison Buckley, President of SUNY Ulster said, “SUNY Ulster is excited to be a partner for public higher education pathway opportunities in Ulster County's Workforce Innovation Hub at iPark 87. Strategically leveraging SUNY missions in this space can build into and strengthen every other node in our Ulster County innovation economy. What is paramount for us is meeting the changing workforce needs in emerging industries by serving the citizens of Ulster County through upskilling and on and off-ramps to affordable access to higher education alongside our public partners in academia and industry, leading to successful employment in a career with family-sustaining wages. SUNY Ulster looks forward to supporting students as they attain their educational degrees/certifications and meet their employment goals.

Dr. Darrell Wheeler, President of SUNY New Paltz said, “We are enthusiastic about our participation in the Workforce Innovation Center and appreciate the Executive's and Legislature's leadership and support for this project. The University has continued to reinforce and actualize our two-pronged mission: supporting and educating students toward degree completion and career engagement, and serving the citizenry of our region and state. The Workforce Innovation Center endeavor connects to both priorities."