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Niagara County eyes tax breaks for Lockport development agency

Tax breaks are on tap for the City of Lockport's economic development agency and for an electrical company planning to move its shop from the City of Tonawanda to Pendleton.

The Niagara County Industrial Development Agency on Wednesday scheduled a May 10 public hearing on a five-year tax exemption for the building that the Greater Lockport Development Corp. is partially leasing to Trek Inc. of Medina, which produces high-tech electrical measuring equipment.

Also that day, a hearing will be held on a 10-year tax reduction for the new headquarters of Brown Electric on Campbell Boulevard in Pendleton.

The IDA board is expected to vote on those deals at its May 11 meeting.

The Greater Lockport Development Corp., the city's development agency, was the first applicant for the county's Opportunity Zone program, which offers a five-year, 100 percent property tax exemption for new tenants in designated downtown areas of the county's three cities.

R. Charles Bell, Lockport city director of planning and development, said the 22 research and engineering employees shifted by Trek to 57 Canal St. from its Medina plant have average salaries of $54,000.

He said they now work "right in the middle of downtown, where they can spend their money. When you're talking about planning and development, that's a beautiful thing."

Susan C. Langdon, IDA director of project development, said that even though the Lockport development agency is a tax-exempt, not-for-profit corporation, when it leases space to a private business in a building it controls, that makes the space taxable.

Trek has signed a four-year, $90,000-a-year lease with renewal options for the second and third floors of 57 Canal.

The deal also exempts the Lockport agency from having to pay $13,100 a year in property taxes and blocks it from having to pay sales tax on the building materials it purchased to ready the space for Trek -- an estimated $19,300 savings. Its application placed that construction expense at $482,570.

"I think this is a wonderful use of our Opportunity Zones," IDA Chairman Henry M. Sloma said. "This gives them time to stabilize their finances and create jobs and investment. That's why we're here."

"We're not in a position where we have to turn anybody away, but we are stretched thin, and not having to pay that $13,100 would help," Bell said.

Meanwhile, Sharon Brown, owner of Brown Electric, applied for a 10-year tax break on a planned 8,500-square-foot building to be erected at 6421 Campbell Blvd., Pendleton.

Brown, the sole owner of the 30-year-old business since her husband, Thomas, died in 2003, said she will close the company's existing shop on Fillmore Avenue in Tonawanda and move seven jobs to Pendleton, where she lives and runs the company from a home office.

She said the Tonawanda facility "is not big enough. I have no life. I need an office where people can come to see me instead of me always having to go to them."

Brown Electric concentrates on industrial and commercial electrical work. Its sales have topped $1 million each of the past three years, Brown said.

The move will create three new jobs: a clerical worker, an estimator and a maintenance manager, she said.

The IDA also learned that Empire State Development Corp.'s Environmental Investment Program had approved its application for a $100,000 grant to Superior Lubricants.

The North Tonawanda company plans a $365,479 project to install equipment to blend 10 million gallons a year of re-refined motor oil for retail sale.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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