Niagara Gazette — After months of debate and exhaustive review, the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency finally has a policy on the books that will require developers obtaining tax incentive packages to hire predominantly local labor during construction.
While we understand developers’ need to maintain reasonable labor costs, we also recognize the need to support a key component of the region’s tax base — the men and women of Niagara County who earn their living as members of skilled trades unions.
Under the NCIDA’s new policy, developers accepting payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreements from the county will be expected to use 90 percent qualified local labor on any construction, demolition, expansion, renovation or remediation project. Failure to do so will result in loss of incentives for a given project. Compliance will be tracked using local labor reports that must be submitted by incentivized companies.
Several officials involved in the process pointed to the unfortunate use of outside labor on the $430 million development of Norampac’s new liner board plant in Niagara Falls as an impetus for adopting the policy. Officials noted that some contractors hired for the project used labor from outside the state, while local media reports indicated a few of those workers were detained by federal immigration officers because they were not legal U.S. citizens.
This is an unacceptable situation, given the estimated $142 million in public subsidies involved.
The NCIDA’s new policy defines “local labor” as coming from any community within the eight-county Western New York area, including Niagara and Erie counties. It also allows for companies to file for a waiver in instances where specialized needs cannot be met by the workforce in our area.
While no policy is full proof, this one at least seems like a reasonable step in ensuring that the community and its workforce will get a greater return on the lucrative tax incentives offered through our IDA.
This is also an all-too rare case in Niagara County where politics and partisanship did not trump sound legislation. Labor leaders and elected and appointed officials from both sides of the political aisle came together to make this happen.
In May, Republicans and Democrats alike supported resolutions sponsored by Niagara County legislators Dennis Virtuoso, Jason Zona and Owen Steed that called upon the NCIDA’s board to establish a local hire policy and ask the NCIDA and the state to forfeit all benefits for companies that employ illegal aliens or undocumented workers on projects.
To their credit, NCIDA officials, who were already at work on such a policy, carefully researched various options, including similar policies on the books in other communities. Members of the agency’s governance committee, including interim Chairman and Lockport Mayor Mike Tucker and fellow directors Stephen Brady and Deanna-Brennan Taylor, worked closely with their fellow board members, agency staff and NCIDA attorney Mark Gabriele to develop the policy that, thanks to a vote by the full board earlier this week, is now the law of the local development land.
We say it’s about time.