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WHEATFIELD – The Niagara County Industrial Development Agency on Wednesday ordered that from now on, at least 90 percent of the construction jobs on any project it aids must go to Western New York workers.

Reacting to a request from the County Legislature, the IDA board approved a new local hiring policy that puts incentives at risk if recipients don’t hire locally.

“It’s a really strong policy, I think. It puts our agency right where it should be,” said Lockport Mayor Michael W. Tucker, the acting IDA chairman.

“I think it’s a very good policy,” said Legislature Minority Leader Dennis F. Virtuoso, D-Niagara Falls, who initiated the Legislature’s request with a resolution he co-sponsored with fellow Niagara Falls Democrats Owen T. Steed and Jason A. Zona.

“I think this is going to send a very loud message throughout Niagara County: we’re going to provide incentives, but you’ve got to work with us,” Virtuoso said.

“This is what should have been done a long time ago,” said Michael W. McNally, business manager for Local 22 of the Plumbers and Steamfitters Union and an IDA board member. He worked closely on the policy with board colleague Stephen F. Brady of National Grid.

McNally said the new rule “ensures construction workers from Western New York should be on the job site, rather than people from out of state coming in and taking their money with them.”

The policy defines local hiring as workers from Niagara, Erie, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Orleans, Genesee, Wyoming or Allegany counties. The contractors need not be based in that region, but the workers they hire must live there.

The policy also says that all companies receiving any form of aid from the IDA must file a report before they begin construction or renovation work, listing the home addresses of all construction workers. That report is to be updated quarterly until the project is completed.

Compliance with the policy is required as a condition of keeping the benefits the IDA granted.

There are provisions for waivers if a company faces a shortage of qualified workers, or if the terms of a manufacturer’s warranty for certain equipment require installation by approved workers, who may not necessarily be from the eight counties of Western New York.

Virtuoso said, “This will bring much-needed jobs to Niagara County, instead of what happened at Norampac, where half the people were from out of state.”

He was referring to Norampac’s new Greenpac Mill in Niagara Falls, constructed with IDA tax breaks. Contractors hired by the Quebec-based paper company were accused of using imported labor, including some reportedly undocumented immigrants.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com