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Amherst IDA divided over tax break Staffing firm to buy equipment

Superior Technical Resources received a $113,750 tax break from the Amherst Development Agency on Friday that will help the administrative services and temporary staffing firm to buy $1.3 million in telephone and teleconferencing equipment for their Amherst headquarters.

The tax break drew criticism from IDA board member Stuart Shapiro, who questioned whether it was essential to provide tax incentives for a local business that is upgrading its technical equipment at its office at 250 International Drive.

"This disturbs me because this is another instance where this company doesn't feel like they should pay sales tax," said Shapiro, who was the lone dissenter in the agency's 4-1 vote to approve the tax break.

James J. Allen, the agency's executive director, said Superior met all of the IDA's eligibility requirements for aid, and noted that the company has received assistance on three previous expansion projects as it grew from nine local employees in 1985 to 164 today, including the addition of 54 full-time jobs since last year.

"That's what we're here for," Allen said.

Allen noted that the region's IDAs have narrowed and standardized eligibility standards through a common policy adopted several years ago, which are largely based on whether a company falls within a U.S. Census Bureau business category that has been deemed to be eligible for aid.

"This company is absolutely eligible under the policy, and unless there's a real good reason, this company should feel comfortable that this board will say yes," Allen said. "They could do this somewhere else, too. They have a whole bunch of other offices. They don't need to do this."

Shapiro, however, said the IDA board should have the leeway to evaluate each case on its own merits. "Eligibility doesn't mean 'automatically gets,' " Shapiro said. "If it did, there would be no purpose in us voting."

The IDA also approved nearly $315,000 in tax breaks for The Advantage Co., which is building a 20,000-square-foot addition to its headquarters and distribution facility at 1955 Wehrle Drive.

The expansion, which is expected to add 22 jobs to its 55-person work force, will expand the company's lifetime service center. The center does warranty and non-warranty repair work on electronics for national retailers, such as Wal-Mart Stores, as well as Stereo Advantage's own customers.

About 15 percent to 20 percent of the repair work is done on repairs for the Stereo Advantage's local customers, said Thomas Kreuz, the company's chief executive officer.

e-mail: drobinson@buffnews.com

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