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IDA pursuing strategy to lure business from Canada

The Niagara County Industrial Development Agency is planning to outsource its active marketing program to lure Canadian businesses to the county.

But the outsourcing isn't going too far -- just down the hall.

The apparent winner of the bidding for the work is Teeter Marketing, which happens to be a tenant in the IDA's headquarters building, Vantage Center.

If the IDA board agrees, Teeter will receive a one-year, $63,000 contract, which will include $45,000 in hourly payments and $18,000 in expenses. The company is to devote at least 50 hours a month to spreading the Niagara County message in Canada.

IDA Executive Director Samuel M. Ferraro said the contract won't be awarded until January or February, because, in the meantime, the IDA staff is compiling a detailed Canadian marketing strategy, at the request of Chairman Henry M. Sloma.

IDA Assistant Director Larry D. Witul said the marketing firm hired would work with the plan and add its own ideas.

The IDA started a Canadian marketing push in 2004 and has exceeded its stated goal of meeting with 150 Canadian businesses each year. Witul said he and Michael A. Casale, the county's deputy commissioner for business development, do most of the leg work after Susan C. Langdon, the IDA's marketing and project manager, helps set up the appointments.

But Ferraro said the time devoted to the project by Witul, Casale and Langdon is starting to get in the way of their other duties. Thus, a request for proposals from marketing firms was issued in September, and five of the 19 companies that received the package returned a bid by the IDA's Oct. 13 deadline.

Several Canadian companies have completed deals with the IDA in the last two years, including the purchase of land in the IDA's Vantage International Pointe industrial park on Lockport Road in Wheatfield.
The latest buyer is Tortel Communications of Concord, Ont., which agreed last week to buy three parcels totaling 22 acres for its office equipment refurbishing business. It also intends to open a plastics and electronics recycling plant and develop a strip plaza along Lockport Road.

Ferraro said the demand for land in the industrial park will enable the IDA to start charging more for it. The County Legislature set the price at $15,000 for a 1.5-acre lot when the county took over the property in 1999 in a tax foreclosure.

Only three parcels were sold in four years, so in 2003, Ferraro got the Legislature to let the IDA cut the price. Since then, 12 parcels have been sold, most of them for $5,000 an acre, and only 29 acres are left out of the total of 158.6 acres.

Ferraro said he expects the price to be raised to $18,000 in 2007, a price he thinks businesses will pay now "because of the demand and the activity that's generated in the park. The bulk of it is [because of] the marketing."

He said each sale in the industrial park relieves the county of paying special district taxes to the Town of Wheatfield on the land; he said those cost the county about $1,000 a day at one time.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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