LOCKPORT – Yahoo must donate $3.5 million to the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo as a condition of receiving tax breaks and other incentives for its expanded Lockport data center – an arrangement that doesn’t strike close enough to home to suit one Niagara County official.
Majority Leader Richard E. Updegrove, R-Lockport, said Wednesday he thinks Yahoo should be required to make its donations to recipients in Lockport or at least in Niagara County. The town is providing the Internet giant with an 18-year break on property and sales tax for the $168 million expansion that is projected to add 115 jobs to the 77 Yahoo already has in Lockport.
“While I certainly appreciate that Buffalo is facing its fair 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,” Updegrove said in a news release distributed by the county.
Clotilde Dedecker, president and CEO of the Community Foundation, said her charity has directed more than $800,000 to Niagara County recipients in the past 15 months.
The Foundation serves all eight counties of Western New York. “Economic development does not start at county lines here. We are a region,” Dedecker said. “Our metropolitan region is Erie and Niagara counties. We are not two different countries.”
The agreement between Yahoo and Empire State Development requires the company, as a condition of state tax credits and low-cost New York Power Authority electricity, to pay the foundation $500,000 a year for seven years.
“Yahoo and Empire State Development will decide how that money will be spent,” Dedecker confirmed.
Updegrove says that puts the onus on Empire State Development, and he said he’s not criticizing the foundation or the Yahoo project itself.
“We think there should be a commitment to spend grant money in Lockport, maybe not all of it, in addition to Niagara County,” Updegrove said in an interview. “I think we should have that conversation.”
The foundation’s recent donations in Niagara County include more than $100,000 worth of college scholarships to students who live in the county.
Other recipients include Niagara County Community College, for its horticultural training program, and Niagara University, for its environmental offerings and for a program to develop “grass-roots leadership” in Niagara Falls.
Donations also have been sent in the past 15 months to Niagara Hospice; Family and Children’s Service of Niagara; Meals on Wheels of North Tonawanda; and the Falls-based charitable organization Heart, Love and Soul, according to Dedecker.