Submitted by Christian W. Peck
Public Information Officer
Niagara County Public Information Office
Niagara County Legislature Majority Leader Rick Updegrove, R-Lockport, has called into question a little-known mandate that requires Yahoo, as part of an incentive-laden package to expand its Lockport operation, to contribute millions of dollars to a Buffalo nonprofit agency.
A provision in the agreement with Yahoo, which provides low-cost power, tax credits, and other incentives to the corporation, states, "As a condition to the receipt of Excelsior Tax Credits and an allocation of hydropower, the Recipient has agreed to and shall enter into a Community Benefit Agreement (the 'Agreement') with the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo (the 'Foundation'). The Agreement shall be subject to review and approval by ESD and NYPA and shall commit the Recipient to make annual grant payments to the Foundation of $500,000 for a period of seven (7) years. The Agreement shall require that any distributions of the grant funds provided to the Foundation by the Recipient shall be subject to the approval of Empire State Development."
Updegrove, who served as chairman of the economic development committee when Yahoo initially chose to build its $150 million data center on a 30-acre property in Lockport in June 2009, expressed concern with the idea of funding a Buffalo non-profit when so many residents of Niagara County could benefit from this investment in their community.
"While we have been successful in facing many economic challenges, these monies could further enhance the quality of life for the residents of Niagara County and make us more attractive for businesses looking to locate or expand here," Updegrove said.
Updegrove made it clear that his intention is not to take funds away from the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, but to enact a disbursement process that benefits not only greater Buffalo, but the host community as well.
"While I certainly appreciate the fact that Buffalo is facing its share of challenges, the reality is that we need to look at a fair and equitable disbursement of those funds so that the people of Niagara County may also benefit," he said. "The Foundation for Buffalo continues to do admirable work for the community. I'm simply asking for a review of the process in order to ensure that the people of Niagara County receive our fair share."
Updegrove said he plans to introduce legislation asking the state to review the current agreement.