County Monroe accepts local labor waiver for Amazon


Amazon and its developer will not have to use local labor for some construction work as they build a new warehouse and distribution center in Gates, under a deal approved by the branch of Monroe County Economic Development.

The Monroe County Industrial Development Agency previously granted the project $ 134.7 million in property tax, mortgage and sales tax exemptions on the condition that the developer, Trammell Crow Co., uses labor. local labor for all construction work – a typical requirement of such a tax. incentive packages.

But after an hour-long closed-door session, the agency’s board voted 4-3 to partially remove the labor requirement, allowing Trammell to hire labor. non-local labor for up to 30% of its construction workforce.

Trammel and Amazon had requested the waiver, citing problems finding enough local contractors to pour concrete for the project.

“I appreciate that we are looking at the big picture,” said board chair Ann Burr, who voted in favor of the waiver.

Burr noted that nearly $ 41 million in contracts have been awarded to local companies, while about $ 17 million of contract work will go to out of town companies. She added that the 1,400 construction jobs the project is expected to create, along with the 1,000 permanent jobs Amazon has pledged, will represent “a huge influx of economic benefits and impacts” to the region.

Ana Liss, Director of Planning and Development for Monroe County, informed COMIDA’s board of directors at its April 20 meeting that Amazon and its developer have contacted the county about a waiver for them. local labor needs. She noted that the company was particularly concerned about finding enough workers to pour concrete for the $ 412 million, 2.6 million square foot facility on Manitou Road near Highway 531 in Gates.

During this meeting, some members of the board of directors of COMIDA coldly welcomed the request.

Jay Popli argued that the county is very clear with its expectations up front and that Amazon is trying to “play” them. Troy Milne, who is the commercial director of Sheet Metal Workers Local 46, criticized the companies for not sharing their construction schedules with COMIDA and building unions, which he said could help companies find solutions. local workers.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Popli and Milne, along with board member Rhett King, voted against the waiver. No council member explained their vote.

Ahead of the vote, Liss read letters of support for the project and waiver from Gates supervisor Cosmo Giunta, LeChase CEO William Goodrich, and Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Bob Duffy.

“In any circumstance, rejecting such an investment would be misguided,” reads Duffy’s letter. “As our region and state is working to recover from the economic devastation caused by COVID-19, we absolutely cannot allow Amazon to walk away, which it has promised to do in case this waiver would not be granted. “

Giunta’s letter noted that the city and county had worked with Trammell Crow to help him find as many local contractors and workers as possible. In his letter, Goodrich wrote that due to the scale and timing of the project, the local job market is unlikely to be able to meet the developer’s needs.

Amazon has a habit of asking for and receiving waivers on local labor requirements related to tax incentives. Often, the possibility – or the threat – that a project might be canceled is enough to convince local officials, who want the investment and the jobs, to move on.

The waiver that COMIDA granted to Trammell Crow and Amazon on Tuesday is similar to the one companies received last year from Onondaga County, in which companies wanted an exemption from local labor requirements to build a 3.8 million square foot warehouse in Syracuse. suburb of Clay. The developer told officials at the Onondaga County Industrial Development Agency that he was only able to fill 70% of his construction jobs with workers from the Syracuse region. .

The Clay Project received $ 70.8 million in tax relief from the Onondaga County IDA.

Jeremy Moule is the editor-in-chief of CITY. He can be reached at [email protected]

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