Picente Delivers 2022 State of the County

Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. delivered his 2022 State of the County address today at the Shenendoah Club House at Turning Stone Resort Casino, announcing a redevelopment corporation for the U-District, the commitment of $5 million for projects in the City of Rome and laying out multiple initiatives aimed at strengthening deficiencies exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Picente proposed a U-District Redevelopment Corporation to expand the sports and entertainment district he launched in downtown Utica five years ago that includes the Adirondack Bank Center and the soon-to-be-completed Nexus Center sports complex. The new U-District would be bookended by two signature county-owned investments — the redevelopment of the Insight House property on one end, and the creation of the REA Wing Food Emporium at Union Station on the other.

“The movement on the REA Wing at Union Station and the building of the Nexus Center has inspired me to look at the U-District differently,” Picente said. “Obviously we have seen great success with the AUD and we know it will only get better, but really, the U-District encompasses all of Bagg’s Square and we need to think of it in those terms. The U-District Redevelopment Corporation will streamline, direct and facilitate public and private investment into this area. To truly realize the potential of the U-District, the county needs to move the rest of the area forward. I see the potential in this area of Utica. We have to make the vital connections between these signature county-owned assets and the rest of the neighborhood.”

The County Executive named Mohawk Valley Garden President Rob Esche; Oneida Indian Nation Representative and CEO Ray Halbritter; Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute President and CEO Anna D’Ambrosio and Savneet Sing, President and CEO of PAR Technology as the group of partners he will work with to move the redevelopment of the U-District forward.

In order to further economic development in other areas of the county and market Oneida County to the world, Picente announced a partnership with the Oneida Indian Nation and the Griffiss Institute to create a signature event that highlights the region’s food, entertainment, sports and technology. The curated exhibition called All Roads FEST, is planned to feature tasting rooms, interactive displays, guest lectures, technology demos, competitions, performances and startup showcases across three days in July 2023.

The county will also launch a program aimed at C-suite business marketing that will highlight the community to the most important company executives during its biggest events, such as the Boilermaker Road Race. In addition, Picente said the county will continue to assess and prepare industrial and brown field sites including the next potential mega-development site —the 250-acre Triangle at Griffiss International Airport.

Building upon the explosion of development surrounding the Griffiss Business & Technology Park and the county’s assets of the UAS Test Site, Skydome and the Innovare Advancement Center, Picente announced that the county would be contributing a total $5 million to two projects in the City of Rome.

Picente said the county will commit $3 million of its federal recovery funds toward a new women’s maternity surgical center that will enhance the hospital’s ability to manage complex and high-risk pregnancies. $2 million is also being dedicated toward the creation of a new YMCA in the Woodhaven housing development being constructed just outside of Griffiss.

As the county continues to remerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, Picente unveiled several initiatives aimed at attacking weaknesses that were exposed during these last two years, particularly in the areas of:

  • Workforce
    • Train 200 new healthcare workers and 100 tractor-trailer drivers.
    • Work with Mohawk Valley Community College to create a dental hygiene training program, K-12 educator professional development, train limited-English speakers in high-demand fields and build transitional housing.
    • Partner with private sector and non-profits to capitalize a Student Loan Development Program that will assist local employers in providing student loan relief as a benefit for prospective employees.
    • Expand county’s Summer Youth and College Corps programs year round.
  • Child Care
    • Create a Child Care Task Force to look at ways to increase affordability and availability and remove obstacles and build upon the steps the county has already taken throughout the pandemic which included:
      • Raising the income eligibility to 200% above the poverty line.
      • Reducing parent share of cost from 25% to 1%.
      • Assisting providers to cover the costs when children are unable to get to daycare in order to preserve their spot.
      • Expanding the eligibility for subsidized daycare to include those who are job searching.
  • Broadband Access & Digital Competency
    • Create a Broadband Local Development Corporation to execute approximately $20 million worth of broadband infrastructure projects throughout the county.
    • Partner with local libraries to create a program that increases digital literacy and competency so residents can better use technology to work, job search, receive healthcare, bank, file taxes, shop and have food delivered.
  • Mental Health
    • Utilize a COVID-centric Teen Assessment Survey that is now being administered throughout local school districts to better understand mental health challenges youth have faced during the pandemic and gauge learning loss and impeded development of soft skills.
    • Increase behavioral health services for youth, crisis counselor funding and create a community mental health nursing program.
    • Complete a community mental health assessment.

“The COVID-19 pandemic was a challenge unlike any other,” Picente said. “I’m proud of the work we have done as a government to lead this community through the uncertain and fearful days of March 2020, to the hope brought on by the vaccine and now to the final stages where we strive every day to keep us on the path to normalcy. We have learned valuable lessons. We have seen new and old issues exacerbated by this virus throughout our community. We cannot pretend they do not exist. We have to rise to meet them.”

A video of the State of the County Address can be viewed in its entirety here.

The speech can be read here.