Time Warner Cable will get more than $3.1 million in state tax breaks for bringing 152 new jobs to the edge of Buffalo’s East Side, officials said Monday, as the Cuomo administration threw out the welcome mat to ensure the telecommunications giant put a new East Coast call center here.
State and local leaders, led by Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy, touted the decision by Time Warner Cable to locate its new Business Class service center at the former Sheehan Memorial Hospital site just east of downtown Buffalo, calling it a coup for the region and proof of revival.
“Buffalo is on the move,” said Duffy, former mayor of Rochester. “It’s one more example of what is happening here. … It’s a great shot in the arm.”
Neither state nor company officials said what other cities or states were being considered for the site, but politicians repeatedly noted that the nation’s second-largest cable company did not have to choose Western New York.
“Time Warner can go anywhere in the state, anywhere in the country,” Duffy said.
Time Warner on Monday formally announced that it will build a state-of-the-art call center to anchor the Compass East project, occupying the entire first floor of the former Sheehan at 425 Michigan Ave. McGuire Development Co., a subsidiary of nursing home company McGuire Group, purchased the 160,000-square-foot hospital late last year and is now redeveloping the 8.7-acre site as a hub for medical, science and workforce training.
The new jobs will be added over five years, while another 150 jobs that already exist at the company’s Waterfront facility will relocate to Compass East.
But Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, D-Buffalo, said such jobs typically pay an average of $15 an hour nationwide, or $31,200 for a 40-hour workweek. That means roughly two-thirds of the average salary would be paid for by tax credits.
Duffy said he was not sure if the agreement included “clawback” provisions if Time Warner doesn’t deliver on the jobs, but said he was confident the company would not only meet the target but would exceed it.
“It is our hope that more will follow,” he said. “We hope this is just the beginning.”
Terence Rafferty, regional vice president of operations for Time Warner Cable, confirmed that other states were in the mix, with their own incentives.
Still, he said it wasn’t just the money. “Tax incentives are a business decision,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s the people. That’s what makes a business great, the people, not tax incentives.”
Rather, both company executives and politicians cited the strength of the workforce, the low cost of doing business here, and the legacy of the company’s 25 years of experience in the region for contributing to the company’s decision. Time Warner employs over 1,000 in Western New York, at multiple locations, mostly for its consumer business. The company employs 10,000 statewide.
“When trying to choose the site, we could have put it anywhere. We chose Buffalo because we’ve had such a wonderful experience,” Rafferty said.
He noted the company’s track record. “We found the market filled with wonderful, talented individuals,” he said. “They’re hardworking. They’re dedicated. If they don’t have the skills, they’re trainable.”
State and local leaders described it as an opportunity in particular for the residents of the East Side neighborhoods surrounding the former Sheehan Memorial Hospital, who could seek good-paying jobs at a facility they could walk to, without having to worry about transportation. Those paychecks, in turn, would be reinvested in the neighborhood, officials said.
“There’s a huge community around here that can take advantage,” said Peoples-Stokes.
On the web: For a video of the Time Warner announcement, go to BuffaloNews.com