Tonawanda News — Companies seeking tax breaks from Niagara County will now need to use local labor to take advantage of those incentives.
The Niagara County Industrial Development Agency’s Board of Directors on Wednesday unanimously approved a local labor policy that will require companies receiving tax breaks to use 90 percent qualified local labor on any construction, demolition, expansion, renovation or remediation tied to the deal.
Michael McNally, an IDA board member who has pushed for the policy since he joined the board in May of last year, heralded the decision.
McNally, who is the business manager for Local 22 of the Plumbers and Steamfitters Union and the vice president of the Niagara County Building and Construction Trades, said the policy will ensure that companies receiving tax breaks keep money in the Western New York economy by providing construction jobs to workers who spend their money here.
“This is going to ensure that Western new York workers are on the job versus someone from out of state or possibly out of the country,” McNally said.
Larger companies, particularly flagship hotels, typically use the same contractors regardless of where they are building, he added.
“They usually have a group of contractors that travel with them and they’re usually predominantly from the South,” McNally said.
The policy defines local workers as those residing in any of the eight counties of Western New York and allows for companies to submit a local labor waiver request if they are unable to use local labor under a set of conditions. Companies will be required to submit local labor reports, according to the policy. Failure to comply could cause the agency to terminate incentive agreements.
Lockport Mayor Michael Tucker, who is the interim chair of the agency’s board, said Norampac’s use of outside labor on its $430 million liner board plant in Niagara Falls was the “tipping point” that pushed the board to adopt the long-discussed policy.
The Canadian firm faced criticism from local labor leaders for using outside contractors despite being awarded $142 million in subsidies on the project.
“Every once in a while you need something to push (a policy) over the edge,” Tucker said.
Tucker said McNally did a great job shaping the new rules.
“Our obligation is to make sure Western New Yorkers are working. These are Western New York dollars,” Tucker said. “I think this is a good policy. It makes our agency stronger and it makes Western New York stronger.”