Harper International’s planned move to Depew received a boost from the Erie County Industrial Development Agency.
The ECIDA on Monday approved $148,000 in sales tax savings to support Harper’s relocation from Lancaster to the former Quad/Graphics building on George Urban Boulevard. A property tax abatement, in accordance with the ECIDA’s standard 10-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement schedule, is yet to be determined.
Harper, a maker of industrial furnaces, will lease 175,000 square feet of manufacturing, warehouse, office and research and development space from an investment group that recently bought the 850,000-square-foot building for $4.4 million. Harper has an option to buy its portion. The owners of the building plan to subdivide the vast property.
Once Harper makes improvements to the building, the company is expected to ask Cheektowaga’s assessor to break out the value of Harper’s footprint, the ECIDA said. “If necessary, the ECIDA will enter into a PILOT agreement for 10 years with the company.” The value of Harper’s footprint, and the impact on taxes, is not yet known; a PILOT would apply only to the increased assessed value.
Harper is moving because it was unable to expand at its longtime in the Village of Lancaster, where it occupied five buildings. The company has shifted some of its operations to leased space at Calspan’s building in Cheektowaga.
Harper is finalizing its agreement with the new owners of the former Quad/Graphics building and intends to move there in middle of this year, said Diana Robbins, marketing director. The company has not made a firm commitment about buying its space there, but it is including the option in its agreement to allow for that possibility.
Since Harper’s project involves moving from one town to another within the county, supervisors of both towns were notified. In a follow-up letter, Lancaster Supervisor Dino J. Fudoli said he had “no concerns or questions regarding the proposed project” and wished Harper well in its move.
Cheektowaga Supervisor Mary Holtz, who is also an ECIDA board member, recalled when Quad/Graphics closed the Depew plant in late 2011, dealing a blow to local manufacturing employment. “The thought of that [building] sitting empty was disastrous,” she said. But now the property has a new owner committed to filling it up, Holtz said.
Christopher Johnston, who filled in as chairman for Monday’s ECIDA meeting, called Harper “a tremendous success story for our region.” The employee-owned company sells its products internationally and has positioned itself for growth, he said.
Harper in its application said it expects its employment to rise to 122, from the current 108, two years after the project is completed. The company estimates the project’s value at $5.5 million.