First Data Corp., a global payment services company, will open an Amherst office creating 18 jobs.
The company was lured to Western New York by the Buffalo Niagara Enterprise, becoming one of the first successful recruitment efforts of the $27 million regional marketing campaign.
Although First Data is starting with a small local office, Amherst economic development officials think the company is a strong candidate to grow locally. First Data, which has 27,000 employees and annual revenue of about $5.7 billion, typically dips its toes in new locations before diving into major expansions, said James J. Allen, executive director of the Amherst Industrial Development Agency.
"This is, I think, a portent of things to come," Allen said. "We truly believe that once they're here, they will expand."
First Data, based in Atlanta, will lease space from Uniland Development Company at 15 Hazelwood Drive.
The Amherst IDA approved a sales tax exemption Friday saving First Data $96,360 on the purchase of more than $1.2 million in equipment and renovations. No property tax incentives are involved.
First Data provides credit and debit card processing services for banks, retail stores and oil companies. The region has a large number of workers with account processing experience because of the banking industry presence here.
In other action Friday, the agency approved more than $1.7 million of combined tax incentives for an expansion by NCO Financial Systems retaining 450 jobs and creating 338 new positions.
Uniland Development Co. will construct an 87,000-square-foot office for NCO at 150 CrossPoint Parkway. The $8.6 million building will get $81,000 in mortgage tax savings, $222,573 in sales tax breaks and a 15-year property tax reduction of almost $1.4 million.
NCO, a publicly-held account receivables management company headquartered near Philadelphia, will also get more than $104,000 in sales tax savings on the purchase of new equipment.
Board member James Cullinan voted against the project, citing an incentive package already approved for NCO's current office at 55 Dodge Road. The property carries reduced taxes through 2011, when the company should begin paying full taxes, Cullinan said.
Amherst resident James Tricoli, speaking at a public hearing, also objected to the tax breaks. NCO is a successful company, with strong profit growth in recent years, which uses relocation threats to get tax breaks from the town, Tricoli said.
"This company, it seems, is really milking the cow, asking you for favor after favor," Tricoli said.
Agency executive director Allen said the possibility of NCO moving to competing locations in Ontario, Pennsylvania, Maryland or Alabama was real.
"They had four other proposals outside the state that were, quite frankly, better than what we were offering in terms of incentives," Allen said.
The local management of NCO, which does collection work for banks, government agencies and health care providers, fought hard for the expansion here, Allen said.
Board member Randall L. Clark asked Cullinan what he would tell NCO's 400-plus local employees if the agency denied the incentives and the company relocated.
"Businesses can move just like that and you can't bluff with them, you can't call them, because they'll move just like that. This is competitive economic survival. This community has to make a decision that it wants to be competitive, or it won't have economic survival," said Clark, who is also chairman of Dunn Tire.
The payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) remains in place for Uniland Development Co. at 55 Dodge Road through either 2011, if the building is filled with a single tenant, or 2006 if the building is subdivided.
The agency also approved a PILOT Friday for Uniland to construct a $9.7 million, 117,000-square-foot office building at 6400 Sheridan Drive. The building on the north side of Sheridan, near Transit Road, will be an expansion of Uniland's successful Sheridan Meadows office park.
The building, which has no announced tenants yet, will get about $1.6 million in combined tax breaks in 10 years. Amherst's willingness to provide incentives for speculative office development has consistently angered some downtown Buffalo property owners because the cuts subsidize lower lease rates.
The office will generate $1.3 million in county, town and school revenue over 10 years on vacant land currently producing $6,210 of annual taxes.
The agency voted to rescind a deal offered to Uniland for construction of 50 Corporate Parkway because it no longer qualifies. Charles Schwab is relocating a retail office from Key Center in Buffalo to the building.
Agency policy prohibits incentives for retail operations and for companies relocating from Buffalo, Allen said.