Assemblyman John Ceretto, R-I-Lewiston, on Tuesday wrote Empire State Development President and CEO Kenneth Adams to discuss new information regarding Unifrax, a manufacturing company that received $700,000 in Empire State Development funding to relocate from Niagara Falls to the Town of Tonawanda in Erie County.
Empire State Development claimed the $700,000 payment was used to ensure that Unifrax did not relocate to Indiana. However, Ceretto's recent FOIL request to the state of Indiana shows no proof that the Hoosier State was trying to entice the company to move.
Ceretto's office submitted a public records request to the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (or IEDC) seeking "all documents, records, phone logs and e-mails pertaining to Unifrax, the city of Niagara Falls, NY and Empire State Development, pertaining to relocation of Unifrax and discussion regarding IEDC relocation incentive programs offered to Unifrax."
Ceretto's office found that, while Indiana's Access to Public Records Act (Indiana Code § 5-14-3) exempts IEDC negotiations from disclosure, IEDC does acknowledge that it has "no records containing the terms of a final offer of public financial resources to Unifrax."
"We were blindsided by this news in early October, and I, like many in the community, was disgusted to see that public dollars were being used to relocate a local job creator over the county line," Ceretto said.
"The public record from Indiana call into question Empire State Development's assertion and begs the question of what exactly happened. The people of Niagara Falls deserve answers. They deserve better than to read in the paper, after it's a done deal, about another corporation leaving the city and they certainly deserve to know why New York state footed the $700,000 bill," Ceretto added. "As long as I hold this office, I will do everything in my power to sustain jobs and bring new jobs here. This is not a small issue to me, or to Niagara Falls, and at the end of the day I am going to get to the bottom of this."
Niagara Falls City Council President Sam Fruscione joined Ceretto in asking for answers. "Losing Unifrax was a blow to our city," said Niagara Falls City Council President Sam Fruscione, D-Niagara Falls. "These were good-paying jobs that will now benefit the tax rolls of Erie County and the Town of Tonawanda. For a city that's losing jobs, I hope that our mayor didn't trade away 100-plus jobs and $8 million in annual payroll for use as a parking lot, and that Empire State Development truly did their due diligence here. I'm thankful that Assemblyman Ceretto is asking tough questions."
Ceretto, in October, wrote to Adams to seek answers, and to call for greater communication between the state agency and state lawmakers. This renewed call for information comes with information obtained from the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.