Another Voice: State Comptroller’s audit confirms the efficiency of Western New York’s local IDAs - The Buffalo News

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Another Voice: State Comptroller’s audit confirms the efficiency of Western New York’s local IDAs

By Gary Eppolito

Recently, New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli issued his annual audit of the state’s industrial development agencies for 2012.

As the member IDAs of the Coalition for Community Building, we thought that the results of how our local IDAs have performed in the mission of creating and retaining jobs in the most cost-effective manner would be worth highlighting.

Under state law, if an IDA fails to submit necessary reports on its activity and results, that IDA is precluded from offering financial assistance that would provide exemptions from state taxes. No member IDA has failed to meet this reporting and disclosure requirement.

In 2012, IDAs throughout the state incentivized 4,521 projects, created the equivalent of 674,178 full-time jobs, achieved a cost for each of those full-time positions of $2,588 and reported a median salary for new jobs of $34,855 and jobs retained of $37,440.

In the comptroller’s data, three categories of performance measurements are critical from a policy and public standpoint: net exemptions per job gained, expenses per job gained and expenses per project. These measurements clearly quantify the efficiency of an IDA in achieving its job creation mission.

In each of these categories, the local IDAs of Amherst, Concord, Hamburg and Lancaster significantly outperformed, by substantial margins, IDAs on a statewide basis (excluding New York City).

For example, the state average for net exemptions per job gained is $4,868. Our local IDAs ranged from $460 to $2,732. The state average for expenses per job gained was $5,432. Our local IDA range was $75 to $151. The state average for expenses per project came in at $40,061, while local IDAs posted a range of $856 to $5,850.

Local policy makers and members of the public can now see and measure just how cost-effective local IDAs have been in creating and retaining jobs. Our local IDAs run very lean operations from an overhead cost standpoint and maintain very favorable and competitive ratios in the amount of public benefits provided to a project in relation to the number of jobs gained.

The local member IDAs will continue to strive to create and retain good jobs in our region at a cost that respects the taxpayer wallet. We believe that there remain numerous issues that must and should be addressed in designing economic development policy and the role IDAs play in implementing that policy.

But we feel compelled to point out that when critics of local IDAs make charges that local IDAs are inefficient and wasteful of the taxpayer’s dollar, such charges are not supported by the findings of the comptroller’s audit.

Gary Eppolito is supervisor of the Town of Concord and chairman of the Concord IDA.

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