By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — As Gov. Andrew Cuomo continues his push to limit the scope of industrial development agencies across New York, or at least bring them further under his control through regional economic development councils, Niagara County has chosen a new leader for its IDA board of trustees.
North Tonawanda City Clerk-Treasurer Scott Kiedrowski was named chairman of the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency during a reorganizational meeting Wednesday, just months after being appointed to the board by the county legislature in January.
The announcement comes as Cuomo attempts to change the way IDAs operate, despite a reluctant legislature, with $5.6 billion in tax breaks statewide given to companies during the last four years that many contend are often politically motivated. During the same period, from 2008 to 2011, the NCIDA was second in the state outside of New York City with more than $147 million in tax exemptions doled out to local businesses.
Kiedrowski said he believes that giving the agency the flexibility to use payment-in-lieu-of-tax deals and other incentives to entice business to the region or to keep those already in the county from leaving is still integral to economic development. He said that 375 jobs were created by the NCIDA “investments” in 2011 and another 229 in 2010 as well as “tens of million in capital investments.”
“To me it’s a very vital role that the board plays in growing the County of Niagara,” he said. “We’ve been a catalyst in assisting companies in the region to expand.”
Kiedrowski, who took the helm from Lockport Mayor Michael Tucker, the agency’s interim chair after longtime head Henry Sloma stepped down in January, said there may be scenarios around the state where Cuomo’s view of IDAs in warranted, though he doesn’t believe that to be the case here.
“I can’t blame (Cuomo) for looking at it,” he said. “I thing IDAs need to take a hard look at their projects and see if they are worthy. But I think the governor is only looking at half the story as far as job protection and creation.”
Kiedrowski worked in the private sector before becoming Republican chairman of the Niagara County Board of Elections. He then moved on to his role with the city, where he is in his second term overseeing the municipality’s finances and much of its day-to-day interaction with the public in the clerk’s office.
He said that chief among his concerns as head of the agency’s board would be tracking businesses that create “a significant number of jobs” and those that use local labor. He added that because of his ties to North Tonawanda he will abstain from voting on businesses in the city that apply for assistance from the NCIDA, though he hopes that he can help ease the process.
“My whole life has been in Niagara County,” he said. “I’m not new to what goes on here.”