City Hall is deeply concerned with the prospect of losing one of Buffalo’s most iconic companies and on Thursday Mayor Byron W. Brown joined forces with an unlikely ally in an effort to keep it here.
Brown, an urban Democrat, and Rep. Christopher Collins, a suburban Republican, wrote a joint letter to the chairman of the Erie County Industrial Development Agency, urging him to approve tax incentives related to Delaware North Cos.’ relocation to new office space at 250 Delaware Ave.
“This is too critical to gamble with,” Brown said. “I don’t know if there’s a legitimate concern that they would move. I know there are municipalities outside of New York state that have already begun to reach out to them and Congressman Collins and I wanted to step up and wanted to state clearly that that would be disastrous for this community and that would be disastrous for the economic growth we’re seeing in Buffalo now.”
Economic development officials in Minneapolis-St. Paul reached out to Delaware North last month, and Brown fears the loss of 350 good-paying jobs downtown.
The abatement, which would exempt $807,000 in sales tax for building materials, has been controversial, as Delaware North is a global company with more than $2 billion in annual revenue and holdings that include casinos. Other elected Democrats, including Assembly members Crystal Peoples-Stokes and Sean M. Ryan, have expressed concerns about the proposed tax breaks.
Brown and Collins stressed their differences, and the agreement they have come to on this issue.
“While there is a tradition of Delaware North maintaining its headquarters in downtown Buffalo, the economic development community cannot rely upon tradition alone – the decision must make business sense for Delaware North,” they write, adding that losing the company would “deal a crushing blow to our region.”
The letter, to ECIDA Chairman Chris Johnston, does not mention a package of tax breaks for Uniland, which is developing the proposed 12-story hotel and office complex at the corner of Delaware Avenue and Chippewa Street.
The incentives for Uniland are separate and Brown said he would look to negotiate for different things in that company’s application. He said the letter was specific to Delaware North’s application.
Brown said Delaware North, which said it would add 65 jobs at the new headquarters, is not asking for anything beyond what any other business contemplating expansion would be eligible to receive.
Peoples-Stokes and Ryan are hosting a public hearing to discuss tax breaks for Delaware North and Uniland at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at Evergreen Commons, 262 Georgia St.
In a joint news release, the state legislators said they share the concerns that have been raised “regarding the necessity of tax breaks for this type of project.”