By Matt Youngfrau
ROCK HILL May 29, 2001 For the last three years, officials have struggled to bring the Emerald Corporate Center in Rock Hill to fruition. After many hurdles and roadblocks, it looks like ground will finally be broken and construction will begin shortly while the business across Route 17, Frontier Insurance Group, tries just to keep its head above the swirling waters of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of recent losses.
But though Frontier may be reduced to a shell of its former self, county officials are confident the corporate center will meet or exceed expectations.
The Emerald Corporate Center was conceived by county Commissioner of Planning and Community Development Alan Sorensen. The intent of the park is to construct buildings to lure new business into the county. The lots can suit buildings as small as 5,000 square feet or as large as 100,000-plus square feet.
"The center will give a company an advantage in economic development," Sorensen commented. "It will be a shovel-ready, state-of-the-art business and technology park that will be of the highest quality in the mid-Hudson region."
Bids were being taken to start construction on the infrastructure of the park. Bidding closed on Friday, May 11. Sorensen and Commissioner of General Services Harvey Smith reviewed the bids and are set to award the contract once all details are worked out, and then it must be approved by the Legislature. If that happens within a few weeks, construction could begin by the end of June or beginning of July. The park would then be ready for tenants by the end of the year. Sorensen stated that he has already been contacted by several interested parties.
Frontier Insurance, on the other hand, is simply trying to stay afloat. Frontier lost nearly $300 million last year and is presently in runoff, meaning the company can no longer write new insurance policies. They are still servicing the policies they have already issued, but that is expected to last only until next March. Unless reserves are built back up and they can once again start writing new policies, Frontier is facing a very bleak future.
"We are hopeful that, after a reasonable amount of time, we are able to write new business," remarked Vice-President Susie Rhulen-Loughlin. "With the New York Department of Insurance, we are trying to put together a plan to get underwriting again."
In the meantime, Frontier is exploring all options and trying to maintain their operations, she said, with the 309 employees they have left. They are currently in discussions with several groups to help alleviate some of their debts, and there is even the possibility that they would rent out space to a large company in their gigantic four-story headquarters, although Rhulen-Loughlin pointed out that the structure was never designed for multiple unrelated businesses.
The on-site child care center is also continuing to operate with 100 children only six of which are from Frontier. Rhulen-Loughlin said Frontier is investigating outside sponsorship of the center.