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McCaffrey won’t head Lockport development agency

LOCKPORT – Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey said Thursday she will not serve as chairwoman of the city’s development agency, the first time since its founding in 1981 that the mayor will not head the Greater Lockport Development Corp.

“I’d like to decline the position,” McCaffrey said at her first GLDC board meeting since succeeding Michael W. Tucker a week ago. “I know that’s a break with tradition a little bit, but I think a business leader should be chairman of the GLDC.”

The board then chose audiologist James T. Macaluso, the senior member in service with 26 years on the board, as the unsalaried chairman of the board.

“I think if the mayor is the chairman, it adds to the public misperception that it’s a city department, when it’s a separate entity,” McCaffrey said in an interview. “There’s no city funds in it, actually.”

“This group has always had a group-based agenda. There’s never been a big boss,” Macaluso said. “I have no agenda except to promote the small businessman. I have been doing that for 26 years.”

Much of the meeting Thursday was devoted to a report on how one of the agency’s triumphs, the decision of Trek Inc. to move its electronic instrument plant from Medina to Lockport, may soon help the development corporation’s financial position.

R. Charles Bell, city planning and development director, said the GLDC loaned $305,000 over several years to 210 Walnut LLC, the city-controlled entity that owns Harrison Place, the former Harrison Radiator plant.

That’s where Trek opened last summer on the first and second floors of Building 4, signing a 10-year lease with a 10-year renewal option for 48,000 square feet of space.

Bell said there are about 30 businesses at Harrison Place now, most of them small ones. “With Trek starting to hire now, there’s about 200 jobs at Harrison Place. That’s something to be proud of,” he said.

With Trek paying $8 per square foot, or $384,000 a year, 210 Walnut’s balance sheet is looking brighter, and Bell said the GLDC may soon begin to receive repayments on its years of interest-free loans to 210 Walnut.

The GLDC took out a $3 million, 10-year mortgage on Building 4 last May to finance most of the $4.3 million in renovations needed to make the space suitable for Trek.

Trek was required to invest at least $433,250 of its own money, although Bell said the company contributed more than that. He wouldn’t disclose the exact figure.