Invest in Albany: Keep Wadsworth in City Limits

This year’s flu epidemic has been one of the worst on record in New York and serves as a poignant reminder of how fundamentally important it is for the State to be able to rapidly respond to public health crises. One particular standout in public health research is the Wadsworth Center, which is often regarded as the finest state public health lab in the country – but it’s showing its age.  To his credit, Governor Cuomo has recognized the need to keep Wadsworth and related public labs on the cutting-edge by proposing to upgrade and consolidate these labs with an investment of over $750 million since last year.

This proposed massive investment in Wadsworth will create world-class life science labs, while positioning the Capital District to attract greater private research dollars and further cement our region as a national epicenter of health, science, and technological research. The Governor’s proposal to invest additional funds into the labs is something I fully supported this year and last – with one essential qualifier: that the labs – and the jobs -​ remain in the City of Albany.

Currently, 800 jobs are tied to the public health labs in this region, including the Biggs Laboratory in the Corning Tower, and this upgrade and consolidation will leverage private sector investment while attracting more jobs and research dollars. This new investment stands to attract a truly specialized workforce; and its location within the City of Albany would not only help expand the city’s tax base, but also contribute to a developing scientific ecosystem located at the core of the Capital Region​.

​As noted by​ the Council for Community and Economic Research; “Once a city attracts some innovative workers, innovators and innovative companies, its economy changes in ways that make it more attractive to other innovators. Once attracted by these changes in the economy, growth continues to spiral and the city leaps into the knowledge-based world.” Keeping Wadsworth in Albany would help the City attract innovators and young scientific minds further spurring regional growth in the City as a scientific hub.

Albany has long been the focal point of the emerging “tech valley,” but it is no secret that city’s budget has yet to reap much of this benefit due to a  concentration of tax-exempt properties and chronic underfunding from the state. The investment in the health labs presents a distinct opportunity for growth; as the Council further noted: “[a]ttracting a scientist or a software engineer triggers a multiplier effect, increasing employment and salaries for those who provide local services. The innovation sector has the largest multiplier of all the economic sectors: about three times larger than that of manufacturing.”

The Wadsworth Labs received international acclaim recently when Dr. ​Joaquim Frank won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry and credited his decades of research in the Wadsworth Labs, thereby elevating the institution’s global importance. The credit is deserved as the research undertaken at Wadsworth is expansive; from investigating public health crises such as Ebloa and Zika; to screening every newborn in New York for treatable conditions; and while testing public water supplies, an essential role to protect the public and avoid another devastating contamination like in Hoosick Falls.

We have a unique opportunity – one not to be ignored—to update and consolidate the Wadsworth Labs capitalizing on a resource of global importance, all while strengthening and revitalizing our region’s urban core. Growing the core of the region’s economy by keeping Wadsworth in Albany would show New York is serious about investing in its Capital City.

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