April 5, 2023

Picente Delivers 2023 State of the County Address

News Photo

UTICA — Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. delivered his 2023 State of the County Address today at the newly-minted Munson, announcing measures aimed at bolstering economic growth generated by the high tech and tourism industries, strengthening agriculture and securing public safety.

Picente said the county is poised to capitalize off of the success of its adjoining sports and tourism assets — the Adirondack Bank Center and Utica University Nexus Center — and the blossoming semiconductor industry led by Wolfspeed.

“We must continue to be bold,” Picente said. “Vision combined with action makes progress. In the past, I have said there is a bright future ahead. Well, it isn’t ahead anymore. It’s here. The accomplishments are real. The progress is real. The positivity is real. We are no longer the community that asks ‘What if?’ Instead, we ask ‘What’s next?’”

He revealed two new incentives for private development in and around the U-District in downtown Utica:

  • A Shark Tank-style challenge to allow potential developers to pitch their ideas, which the county will then help fund.
  • The creation of an “opportunity zone” in the Bagg’s Square Improvement District that will include property tax reductions and incentive packages aimed at supercharging investments of all kinds, creating more businesses and jobs and bringing in more visitors.

With nearly 2,000 people already working in the semiconductor and electronics manufacturing industries in Oneida County, Picente proposed a first-in-the-nation, plan to attract and create more supply chain companies. The plan will:

  • Devise a package of work training incentives —above and beyond New York State’s—that any company choosing Oneida County can utilize.
  • Assist companies that come to Oneida County in accessing the next round of federal funding in the CHIPS Act.
  • Create a one-year tuition stipend at Mohawk Valley Community College in studies related to the semiconductor industry.

Picente also announced steps Oneida County would take to strengthen its number one industry: agriculture.

“I know the hardships faced by our county dairy farmers,” Picente said. “They have constraints forced upon them unlike any other industry. They don’t set the price of their milk and have very little room to negotiate. They are left out of a market-based system while taking on many of the costs and risks. When milk is dumped, it is the farmer that takes the brunt of that loss. While they may be able to absorb that financial hit most of the time, there is inevitably a breaking point.”

In order to assist dairy farmers the county will:

  • Partner with Cornell Cooperative Extension, co-ops and the Farm Bureau to safeguard dairy farmers’ bottom lines in a worst-case scenario by creating an emergency fund.
  • Commission a feasibility study for additional dairy processing plants.

In a first-of-its kind effort to assist farmers in finding employees, Picente also proposed a program that would utilize non-profit agency partners to establish a farm training program that matches the differently-abled community with agricultural work.

Citing the failure of New York State’s bail reform law and increasing levels of gun violence, Picente vowed to take action to make Oneida County safer by installing security cameras at all county-owned or affiliated facilities and on high-crime, high-density main streets throughout various communities.

“As we fight an opioid epidemic, combat homelessness, face a mental health crisis and protect our schools and neighborhoods, we are dealing with a bail reform law that simply doesn’t work,” Picente said. “It makes our streets less safe and is an unworkable burden for the entire criminal justice system. I refuse to sit back and wait for this to be resolved by Albany. I have a message for repeat offenders out there who have been breaking the law. When a crime is committed in these locations, we will see you, catch you and prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.”

Several other initiatives and action items were announced during Picente’s address including:

  • A survey of Nexus visitors to assist the county, developers and entrepreneurs looking to invest and capitalize off the success in the district.
  • A Youth Bureau initiative that will celebrate the county’s 225th Anniversary by tasking students with naming an official county animal, flower and other items.
  • An inner-city outreach program to better connect 18-24 year-olds to workforce development training and a summer teaching internship that will recruit future teachers to work with community-based agencies to offer academic enrichment for inner city youth.
  • A mobile American Job Center that will travel into rural communities to serve residents by recruiting for youth programs, holding job fairs and offering training information.
  • Working with districts to recruit, hire and place more mental health professionals in schools.
  • Funding programs that provide meals and snacks free-of-charge over weekends and during school breaks for local students.
  • The installation of GPS tracking equipment to snow plows to show the public when and where county roads are being cleared.
  • A flood mitigation mapping analysis, showing the effect mitigation efforts have had to prevent property losses in dollars, acreage, length of roads and vital infrastructure.
  • Bringing more essential homeless services to the Rome area by developing a certified shelter and warming center there and exploring transitional housing options across the county.
  • Executing a housing market inventory, assessment and strategic plan that will examine the housing supply and demand, gaps in the market and how spatial patterns match up with those of the region’s people and jobs.

 “The state of Oneida County is strong,” Picente said. “Stronger perhaps than any time in our history. Strong because we built a foundation of fiscal stability that has allowed real investment. Strong because we take care of all our people. Strong because when we are challenged, we respond and when we are told it can’t be done, we don’t buy it for a minute.”

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

 The speech can be read here.

Oneida County Partners