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JCIDA to entice developers to hire local labor

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Developers seeking tax breaks from the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency will be required to say whether they will hire local labor to complete projects.

While the agency always informally has encouraged development companies to hire local workers, the board of directors decided Thursday to retool the agency’s application requirements for projects so developers will complete a form detailing how many local workers they’ll hire.

The move was made after the agency heard concerns last month from Dennis C. Affinati, business manager for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 910, that local union workers weren’t being hired to complete work for any of the summer’s major housing projects.

Applicants for projects will be required to answer a list of questions regarding how they plan to recruit local workers and estimate what percentage of workers will be local. If they don’t plan to hire local workers, they are asked to cite reasons for not doing so. Local labor is defined as workers from Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties.

“The staff and board will be able to review applications and see if they’re using the local work force for projects,” JCIDA CEO Donald C. Alexander said. “Maybe we’ll find out this (application) isn’t strong enough, or too strong, but I wanted to get an oar in the water” based on feedback last month.

The document also says the agency intends to check randomly on developers to ensure they’re using local labor if they say they will. The agency will have the option to pass clawback agreements for projects, Mr. Alexander said, allowing it to end tax breaks and reclaim funding if developers neglect to hire the local labor they promised.

“If it was blatant, where they say they will hire 100 people and only hire 50, we can include in the agreement that we have the option to take away benefits,” he said. “But if they hire 90 workers and have a good reason for why they didn’t hire 100, we wouldn’t take action.”

JCIDA Secretary W. Edward Walldroff said the labor applications will spotlight some of the areas in which the local labor force has an inadequate skill set to meet developers’ needs. If it’s discovered the labor force would benefit from training in certain areas, the JCIDA could partner with educational institutions to launch programs.

“As a community, we’ll be able to better identify where we’re losing out with our local labor force,” he said.

The board also approved a plan for Eagle Beverage Co. to build a 60,000-square-foot warehouse at Jefferson County Corporate Park off outer Coffeen Street. To be built on Lot 11 at the park managed by JCIDA, the climate-controlled warehouse and distribution building will have 30,000 square feet of storage space and 12 enclosed bays for delivery and shipment.

Eagle Beverage will move from 251221 Route 3 in the town of Pamelia after Lunco Development Corp., Carthage, finishes the new building. While the distributor didn’t apply for a tax break through JCIDA, it has applied for a 10-year business investment exemption available through state real property tax law. If approved, the exemption would give the company a 50 percent exemption for the first year of the project, decreasing by 5 percentage points for each subsequent year. The project is expected to break ground this fall.

In addition, a company is ready to close on a deal to move into a 100,000-square-foot warehouse that will be located at Lot 10, which is owned by Michael E. Lundy of Lundy Development Corp. To make extra space for the warehouse, the agency will subdivide Lot 11 to create extra space for the warehouse project. Mr. Alexander said the company is expected to close on the project within the next week.

The warehouse originally was planned by Lundy Development in 2008 for CFM Food Distributors, until the company unexpectedly filed for bankruptcy and scrapped the plan.

Another unnamed company is expected to purchase Lot 13, which is north of the Car-Freshner Corp., Mr. Alexander said. That deal likewise is expected to be announced soon.

“We’re at the point now where these lots are going to go,” he said. “Between these three projects at the park, we’re looking at $8 million to $10 million (in property assessments) that will be added to the tax base.”

In other business, the board approved:

n A contract with law firm Harris Beach of Rochester to prepare a comprehensive document detailing how JCIDA dissolved its subagencies — which were local development corporations — to comply with a ruling by state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli in February that employees on subagencies didn’t work for JCIDA and thus were ineligible for inclusion in the state pension system. The agency has asked the comptroller’s office to provide a formal opinion to ensure its retooled structure, which now has committees instead of LDCs, is compliant with state regulations.

n A $12,500 loan for JVO Cafe & Bakery, 104 Bartlett Road, Sackets Harbor. To be matched by $12,500 from the Sackets Harbor Local Development Corp., the loan is contingent on the approval of a credit score check on store manager Jill A. VanOcker. Ms. VanOcker plans to use the five-year loans for advertising and to launch online ordering on the shop’s website.

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