Tag Archives: ECIDA

Steel Tube Production for Lackawanna

30 May

Chris Smith came across a notice for a public hearing, which was held on the morning of Tuesday May 29th in Lackawanna City Hall regarding an application Welded Tube, USA, Inc. made to the Erie County IDA for a land and incentive package at the “Tecumseh Business Park, Lakewinds Site Parcel 3 at the intersection of Route 5 and Ridge Road in Lackawanna”.  

Under the proposal, Welded Tube intends to build a “new, high speed, efficient steel tube production line for the production of multi-faceted cold formed carbon and HSLA tubular steel for use in the energy tubular industry”.  

The ECIDA would purchase the land and lease it back to Welded Tube, and “contemplates that it will provide financial assistance to the Company for qualifying portions of the Project in the form of sales and use tax exemptions, a mortgage recording tax exemption, and a partial real property tax abatement consistent with the policies of the [ECIDA]”. 

The property in question is a 400 acre brownfield site that sits perhaps not coincidentally right next to the embattled Bethlehem Steel North office building. 

Alfred Culliton, COO of ECIDA says that Welded Tube is a “Canadian operation” looking to open up its first US operation on this Lackawanna site. Culliton says Welded Tube intends to construct further south on the property, near the South Branch crossing, and is in no way related to, or spurring the push to demolish the Bethlehem Steel North office building. 

Welded Tube USA, Inc. is not incorporated in New York State, and there are no Google hits for that name, except for the ECIDA hearing notice.  It appears that cleaning up the former Bethlehem Steel property for prospective residential or recreational purposes is not a priority, and the land will instead further be used for industrial purposes. This place – does it matter? How, and for whom?

Occupy the ECIDA

17 Apr

In order to dissuade Occupy Buffalo from “creating a disturbance”, which is newspeak for “exercising their first amendment right to free speech in front of a public entity”, the Erie County Sheriff’s office overloaded the library auditorium with Deputies.

Occupy Buffalo issued the following on its site:

Slumlord Carl Paladino has a net worth of $150 million, and yet he wants more taxpayer money so he can make a profit by turning his dilapidated Greystone Manor into an upscale apartment building that none of us could ever afford to live in. Moreover, once the renovations are done, no further jobs will be created from this endeavor. It is all about Paladino making a profit at the taxpayers’ expense.

If you want to know more about where your taxes go, then come to this meeting and find out. Occupy the economy!

Also, please be aware that armed security may be present at this meeting. This is the reality in which we live. They try to instill fear in us with the threat of violence. But it will not deter us from pursuing truth and justice.

The jobs created by these tax breaks are temporary construction jobs.

The ECIDA meetings – during which politically well-connected people decide how other politically well-connected people get to spend public money – do not provide for public comment. The public hearing on the matter took place on April 9th, during which people were permitted to speak. So, when the Erie County IDA votes to give multimillionaire land speculator Carl Paladino hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales and mortgage tax breaks – incentives that cost the people money – the people are required to sit silently. We don’t get to vote for the ECIDA members, and we get to comment only in a limited way.

Occupy is active as the lobbyists for regular people who are undeserved by this rudderless system of myriad IDAs, which seldom develop anything industrial, and who regularly poach WNY businesses from one WNY community to another. If we had one regional IDA, which sought to attract business and people from outside WNY, that would be great. So would an ida scheme that didn’t routinely substitute “residential” or “hospitality” for “industrial.” Occupy took similar action recently at the Clarence IDA, which has come under harsh state criticism for its practices.

It would appear that something is desperately wrong with that sort of system. Thanks to Occupy Buffalo for attending these meetings and questioning the ECIDA’s policy of subsidizing projects that generate few, if any, permanent jobs and likely would be completed anyway.

WNY Economic Development, Obstacles and Opportunities

24 Jan

Recently, I sat down with James Allen, Executive Director of the Amherst Industrial Development Agency (AIDA) to discuss economic development strategies in Western New York.  Mr. Allen is an advocate for strategic, regionalized, economic development strategies as well as increased outreach to Canadian economic development professionals.  Mr Allen believes that economic development in the new economy is a community-wide effort focused on people, knowledge, networks, and linking community assets.

Allen holds a Masters Degree in Urban Planning from the University at Buffalo (UB) and serves as an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the UB School of Architecture and Planning focusing on regional economic development planning and industrial development. He is also a Senior Fellow at the UB Regional Institute.

The Amherst IDA is one of six Industrial Development Agencies in Erie County, along with the Erie County IDA and four more in the suburban towns of Lancaster, Hamburg, Concord, Clarence.  There are also three IDAs in Niagara County, including the Niagara County IDA and two more in the towns of Lockport and Niagara.  IDAs are primarily chartered to provide state and local tax exemptions to businesses in order to attract or retain business in local communities and/or provide low cost loans to businesses.

There are also other organizations working towards economic development in WNY, including the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, Buffalo Niagara Enterprise, and the vestigial tails of the former Buffalo Economic Renaissance Corporation; the Buffalo Urban Development Corporation and the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency.

With a robust number of agencies, one would think that business in Western New York would be booming.  However, the region continues to struggle with development and businesses continue to move out of New York State.  It’s possible that the number of agencies chartered with economic development in the region is actually causing confusion and adding unnecessary red tape to projects.  The Partnership for the Public Good has done a load of research on the pros and cons of IDA consolidation and I encourage you to read it. While consolidation offers many benefits, IDAs in Erie County already have shared policy goals and incentives and work together using the Framework for Regional Growth.

Mr. Allen feels that significant tax and regulatory obstacles exist which prohibit growth in the region.  He points out a few specific regulations and some case studies which illustrate his point.

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The regulatory and tax environment that Allen describes is a disincentive to larger companies looking to relocate to WNY and forces the IDAs to make large scale tax concessions in order to bring jobs to the region.  With those obstacles in place, a more focused approach on developing local companies and start-ups should be the primary objective.

The lower start-up costs associated with business overhead and access to a talented, but lower cost labor pool certainly give WNY an advantage over many other regions.  However, this approach is constrained by a general lack of local capital.  Allen points out that the lack of a pipeline of ideas and projects is a limiting factor in bringing external angel and venture capital to the region.

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Finally, an under-explored opportunity is economic development outreach to Canadian companies.  Efforts by the Buffalo Niagara Enterprise have resulted in several companies doing just that, but the efforts should be municipally sponsored and much more robust.  Allen feels that we have a good start and we need to develop a regional framework for for cooperative economic development planning between governments.

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“We need to determine what kind of future we want to create.” says Allen.  An encouraging development in this direction is Governor Cuomo’s announcement of ten regional economic councils in New York. The goal is to consolidate and transform the state’s fragmented economic development programs into a coordinated effort to grow regional industries, or “clusters.” This would allow for bottom-up planning rather than top down decision making from the Empire State Development Corporation.

Buffalo Quick Hits

23 Aug

All these ideas deserve a full post. Unfortunately, they won’t get them today. So here you go:

What the Buffalo News is up to: Rarely is editorial control so blatant in “mainstream” newspapers. But even the least attentive local newspaper reader will note that the Buffalo News has left the simple reporting of facts far behind in the continuing coverage of the City Grill shootings, and, for reasons of agenda alone, “new” trouble on Chippewa.

What is the coherent message here? Its safe to come downtown and drink, and it’ll be even safer if we move the bar time back to 2am. 

What other explanation can there be for a series of diptychs for the last week, highlighting not only the continuing investigation of the shootings at City Grill, but, mysteriously and simultaneously, crime in the entertainment district on Chippewa. This trend of stories came to a head on Sunday, when the News’ headline concerned the criminal backgrounds of victims of the shootings, while adjacently posting a large picture of an average night on Chippewa. The News is now taking heat for this tasteless, but agenda-directed, news story – papers are burning and more protests are planned. I feel badly for the reporters doing the editorial dirty work.

The two stories are related in several important ways: they cater to the scared white suburbanite (who hasn’t been in downtown Buffalo after dark in years anyway but does buy newspapers), and it furthers the agenda of editors who wish the bartime rolled back to 2am. Regular quotes from Buffalo insiders (such as Croce and Goldman) provide cover for some of the editorializing, but the worst of it can’t be disguised:

Some suggest lifestyle, associations may have put them in harm’s way

Eight young people who grew up on Buffalo’s streets were gunned down in a hail of bullets last weekend outside City Grill downtown, four of them fatally.

They left grieving families. Mournful friends.

And arrest and conviction records.

Who is making these suggestions? Since no one is quoted in the News article, besides a random professor from Hilbert (!), it must be the News itself. But the comingling of the stories ignores some very inconvenient facts. First, the shooting outside City Grill happened at 2:30 am, after patrons were removed from the bar at the new proposed bartime. Secondly, the shooting appears ever more to be gang related. While the News is quick to highlight this fact some of the time (“See, its safe to come drink if you aren’t in a gang!”), it hopes you don’t ask what gangs have to do with Chippewa. Which leads to the third ignored fact – no evidence is provided that arrests are up, crime is up, or violence is up on Chippewa. A series of anecdotes are presented, which could read like the police blotter of many city neighborhoods.

Large parts of the East Side are closer to City Grill than Chippewa. Let’s highlight some of the crime there, and how to fix it, where far worse is happening nightly that is much more related to the tragedy at City Grill. I know its not related to the 2am bar time agenda, but its where the facts should lead you.

Next up for the CEJ? IDA’s: Flush off its victory sinking Bass Pro, the Coaltion for Economic Justice has found its next target: Industrial Development Agencies. Specifically, the six in Erie County that provided $600 Million in tax breaks, of which they deemed $135 Million “wasted” because job creation totals were not met.

I will hand it to the CEJ on one note: they are ideologically consistent, and do target every capitalistic recipient of government money. I look forward to their continued investigations, where they discover the bloated union contracts, mandatory hiring policies, outdated regulations like the Wicks and Scaffold Laws, and government ineptitude that also wastes the taxpayer’s money and provides no public benefit. I won’t hold my breath.

While ideologically consistent, it is clear that the CEJ does not require anyone with a practical economics or business background to participate in their planning. The disconnect from reality is flabbergasting. And not just subjective reality, like my opinion that high corporate taxes and a bad business climate make NY a tough sell to companies for expansion (or even retention), thus requiring tax incentives. But I mean objective reality too – you know, that Great Recession thing made all sorts of companies miss their hiring goals. I wonder if the CEJ union allies realize their employers are being targeted for the waste of their retained and unmoved jobs – manufacturing companies with union workers being a major recipient of IDA aid, after all.

But do not fear! In the future centrally planned economy, there will be enough work for all, each according to their talents, when government provides both the supply and demand, and all hiring and production goals will be met! March on, proud worker!

A home for Rick Lazio: No one wants the Republican Primary to come more than Rick Lazio. Left to his own devices, he issues thoughtful policy recommendations, like a reformed unicameral legislature (do you know Alan’s article is the top Google search for “Lazio Unicameral,” and I had a devil of a time finding this platform plank on Lazio’s own site? Sad.). But faced with crazed charged from his Right, in the form of Mad Paladino, he tracks dangerously into the loonisphere himself.

We can hope that once Paladino is dispatched in September, Cuomo and Lazio will have thoughtful policy debates. I won’t hold my breath for that either. It’ll be nothing but chicken costumes and GZM (that’s Ground Zero Mosque. Libs – don’t hate the player, hate the game) til November.

I’m going to vote for Lazio in September. In a parallel universe, where Paladino didn’t run and Sarah Palin’s handlers never opened a NYT to discover that a YMIA was being put up in downtown Manhattan, I think a Lazio/Cuomo race could have done something constructive for the state. It was not to be.

But Lazio’s policy instincts are good, if his political ones are bad. He has a use in the public service. He is a worthy addition to government in New York. But where is the right place for him? Back to the US House? Cross ticket LG? Mayor or county executive of some ‘burb on Long Island? NYS Senate Majority Leader? I wish I knew, but more, I wish he knew.

Lynn Marinelli Interview

25 Jan

As part of our ongoing interview series with Erie County Legislators, Marc and I turned our camera on Legislator Lynn Marinelli.  We spent about an hour with her and covered dozens of topics ranging from the “reform coalition” to the pending budget crisis in Erie County.

We’re asking each legislator the same basic set of questions and we hope through this interview series, you can juxtapose the responses from each and get a feeling for what’s important to them and get a perspective on their ideas for governance and politicking.

After we got through the basic set of questions about the “reform coalition”, reductions in urban-centric service programs, urban/suburban divide issues, regional planning/coordination, and general politics, we went with a few additional questions about the ECIDA, Collins for Governor and the upcoming decision to maintain or repeal the municipal share of the additional sales tax levied in 2005.

There was a lot of ground covered and it was pretty tough to edit the interview down to under 10 minutes, but I think we got most of the important topics covered.

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We’re scheduling an interview with Legislator Kozub later this week and we hope to hear back soon from Legislators Hardwick and Rath.  If you have questions you’d like us to look into, let us know in the comments section.