Share this article

print logo

NCIDA receives aid applications for car seat foam plant, veggie greenhouse

WHEATFIELD – The Niagara County Industrial Development Agency will consider tax incentives for a car seat foam plant and a greenhouse where vegetables are to be grown year-round.

The Bridgestone APM plant, to be built in the Vantage International Point industrial park off Lockport Road in Wheatfield, which is controlled by the NCIDA, would employ 60 people in the manufacture of the seat foam, mostly for export to Canada.

“The Bridgestone project, that was a home run. You guys did a great job. Those are real jobs,” IDA board member Michael W. McNally said in response to a report of months of negotiations by IDA Chairman Henry M. Sloma and the Ohio-based subsidiary of Bridgestone, a Japanese-owned tire company that claims to be the world’s largest.

Tuesday, the Niagara County Legislature voted to schedule a public hearing for 6:30 p.m. next Tuesday on a request for a $750,000 state grant toward the $12.3 million project. The 60 jobs might be only the beginning, according to Douglas Elia, president of Montante Construction, the Town of Tonawanda firm that will construct the plant and lease it to Bridgestone.

Elia said the initial 65,000-square-foot plant could be followed up by a 40,000-square-foot second phase that could bring 30 more jobs with it. He said the pay will start “in the low $50,000s, up close to $100,000.”

“This is a company that’s excited to come here,” Elia said. “It’s a pretty aggressive schedule, but we want to start pushing dirt in late October.”

Elia said “full-steam-ahead” manufacturing could begin in late 2016.

A 15-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, or PILOT, plan would save Montante an estimated $3.2 million in property taxes and sales taxes on building materials and equipment.

Also Wednesday, Wheatfield Gardens LLC, a Florida-owned company that has reopened a greenhouse on Shawnee Road in Wheatfield, also put in its request for a 15-year PILOT. Forty-seven people already work there, said Robert Pike, chief operating officer.

John Cummings, a former vice president of sales at Bethlehem Steel who is a partner in the project, said the number of employees could rise as high as 90. The $2.5 million renovation project would install new technology to enable the 12.5-acres greenhouse to function all year.

The facility already is growing cucumbers and eggplant, with tomatoes and leafy greens planned. Its produce is already on the market.

Pike, a North Carolina native who used to work for Eggland’s Best, said the partnership “was looking around for a deal to buy a greenhouse. … This facility was basically mothballed.”

It was built by Fortistar, which operated a cogeneration power plant in nearby North Tonawanda. “This facility was basically a tail wagging the dog for Fortistar,” Pike said.

The PILOT will save the company an estimated $246,000 over the 15 years, the IDA staff figured.

Public hearings on both projects will be held on a date yet to scheduled before expected votes by the IDA board Oct. 14.