Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

June 22, 2013

County: More local hires

Staff reports
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — The Niagara County Industrial Development Agency is being asked to beef up its local hiring conditions for tax-break recipients and, also, take financial benefits away from companies caught employing illegal aliens.

This week, in two 14-0 votes, the Niagara County Legislature approved measures calling on the N.C.I.D.A. Board of Directors to impose and enforce a 100-percent local hiring requirement for companies that have Payment In Lieu of Taxes contracts with it.

The agency already has a local hiring policy for P.I.L.O.T. recipients, but the policy doesn’t state a required minimum percentage of local labor, and recipients’ compliance is not routinely policed. Companies receiving tax benefits are more or less on an honor system, according to Michael Tucker, acting chairman of the N.C.I.D.A. board of directors.

County Legislator Dennis Virtuoso, D-Niagara Falls, proposed the agency adopt a hiring policy similar to the one set by the County of Monroe I.D.A., which requires its tax-relief grantees to use 100 percent “local” labor, except in cases relating to equipment warranty issues, specialized construction, local versus non-local labor cost differentials or labor inavailability.  Local hires are defined as residents of Monroe, Genesee, Livingston, Orleans, Ontario, Seneca, Wayne, Wyoming and Yates counties.

Since the policy went into effect in 2004, C.O.M.I.D.A. granted tax relief on 367 construction projects that generated 15,578 construction jobs. Developers sought waivers on 1 percent or 320 jobs, according to agency Director Judy A. Seil. Exemptions granted by the agency are reviewed by an independent auditing firm.

Enforcing a local-hire policy is a challenge for N.C.I.D.A., according to Tucker.

“We do monitor the best we can, but it’s not like we’re going to hire somebody to do a (project by project) head count,” he said. “We will take both of those (legislative resolutions) up, though. I will make sure they’re brought to the table.” 

The legislature’s second resolution calls on the N.C.I.D.A. and New York State to strip tax breaks, low-cost power and other subsidies from recipients caught employing illegal aliens.

It’s in response to the news that U.S. Homeland Security recently arrested seven illegal aliens who were working construction of the Norampac/Greenpac paperboard manufacturing facility in Niagara Falls.

On a project valued at $430 million, the company is receiving local property, sales and mortgage tax breaks, low-cost hydropower, state grants and tax credits worth an estimated $202 million, the resolution noted.

In other legislative business this week, lawmakers agreed to pledge Niagara County’s support for a grant request by the Isaiah 61 Project. The non-profit entity is seeking $219,000 from the Western New York Power Proceeds Allocation Board, Economic Development Fund.

The project, coordinated by Jim Haid, the former director of the St. John the Baptist Outreach Center in Lockport, puts unemployed and underemployed residents to work renovating vacant houses in Niagara Falls. Partners include the City of Niagara Falls, Mikelly Construction, Orleans/Niagara BOCES, the John R. Oishei Foundation and First Niagara Bank. The project is seeking funding for the capital and job training components of its program.

The Economic Development Fund is a pot of money fed by the market sale of unused, low-cost expansion and replacement hydropower. Grants are for businesses and non-profit entities located within 30 miles of the Niagara Power Project only.