Massena, N.Y., perched on the northernmost border of New York state, is the archetype of the company town that has lost its companies. Downtown there's a pillared town hall and a Main Street lined with stately old buildings, along with an empty union hall, a couple of banks and restaurants, and a bunch of vacant storefronts — echoes of the town's more prosperous past.
Aluminum giant Alcoa drove the town's growth in the 1900s, attracted by the plentiful electricity generated by a nearby hydropower dam on the St. Lawrence River. But Alcoa has downsized greatly over the last decade. General Motors and Reynolds Metal plants closed, too. Massena has hemorrhaged hundreds of jobs.
That's why back in January, Massena's Town Supervisor Steven O'Shaughnessy was over the moon when - rather suddenly - companies that do something called "Bitcoin mining" came knocking. "They need lots of power, and they need to be able to count on it," O'Shaughnessy says. "And we can provide that."
The firms promised millions of dollars in investment and hundreds of jobs.