WHEATFIELD – Trek Inc., the Medina electronic instrument company that moved its research and development department to Lockport last year, may move the rest of its operations to Lockport next year.
Trek has agreed in principle to a lease on Building 4 of Harrison Place, the former Harrison Radiator Division plant at Walnut and Washburn streets in Lockport, City Planning and Development Director R. Charles Bell said.
“It’s not a done deal, but we’re on the 5-yard line,” Mayor Michael W. Tucker said.
Wednesday, the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency received an application from 210 Walnut LLC, the city-controlled owner of the plant, for a 20-year property tax break on Building 4. Although it’s controlled by the City of Lockport, 210 Walnut is technically a private, taxable entity.
Bell said Trek’s 10-year lease on the 96,000-square-foot, three-story building includes a five-year renewal clause as well as an option to buy the building outright.
Trek has outgrown its current 30,000-square-foot plant on Salt Works Road in Medina, said Michael C. Dehn, president of the company.
It would be the anchor tenant the city has been hoping for since the Greater Lockport Development Corp., the city’s development agency, seized the 461,000-square-foot Harrison complex in 2006 because a previous owner defaulted on loans from the agency.
“When GLDC took it back a long time ago, this was the dream project,” Tucker said.
Bell said Trek’s original interest was in vacant land at Summit Street and State Road. The city announced during the summer that a “light manufacturing” company was interested in that site. However, the city talked Trek into looking into moving its 72 Medina employees to Harrison Place instead.
Dehn said it took eight to 10 months for the deal to come together, and at first, he was highly skeptical of the old plant.
“It was something that at first seemed really far-fetched,” he said. “We thought it was insane, that’s not a fit for us.”
But upon doing his research about adaptive reuse of old industrial buildings, he came around to the city’s way of thinking. “We wanted to create an image,” he said. “To do that with a new building would have been cost-prohibitive.”
Bell said the GLDC is expected to bear the $4 million cost of making the first two floors ready for Trek’s office and manufacturing operations. He said the city agency needs a bank loan to make that happen, and a low-ball bank appraisal of the property still could torpedo the deal. The Planning Board needs to OK subdividing the property.
Dehn said an internal survey showed about 90 percent of the current Medina workforce is willing to drive to Lockport for work, as the 23 workers in the company’s tech center at 57 Canal St. already do. Also, 24 additional office and production jobs are to be created within three years.
Dehn said the company considered moving to South Carolina or even shifting manufacturing to Japan, where it has some operations. It has not ruled out those options completely, but Trek likes Lockport because it already has a location there and because it is closer than Medina to the University at Buffalo, where it recruits many of its new employees.
Dehn said the existing Trek plant is to be sold to Takeform Architectural Graphics, a Medina sign company that needs more space.
The Building 4 tax break would begin with a five-year, 100 percent property tax exemption, since the complex is located within Lockport’s Opportunity Zone, an IDA program for depressed downtowns.
After that would come a 15-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, or PILOT, arrangement. The deal also involves an exemption from paying sales tax on building materials, equipment and furnishings for the plant, and a break on paying mortgage recording taxes.