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After debate over necessity, Amherst IDA grants tax breaks to Northwest Bank

The Amherst Industrial Development Agency on Friday morning granted $87,500 in sales tax breaks to Northwest Bank for its new $1.5 million regional headquarters and back office operations in the town.

The bank promises to create or retain 100 jobs as part of the project in Ciminelli Real Estate Corp.'s Centerpointe Corporate Park.

The approval came after a brief debate among board members on whether the bank required the incentive package to move forward with the project. IDA board member Michelle Marconi questioned whether $87,500 would make a difference for a multibillion dollar financial institution.

Executive Director David Mingoia said the agency regularly provides incentives to companies with means because those are the companies that are able to pull together the financing to make a project happen. And board member Steven Sanders said it's not a question of whether the $87,500 will make or break the project, but whether they would do the project in Amherst without the tax break.

"I think it's a good project to incentivize," said Sanders, a Town Board member who serves as the deputy town supervisor.

The board approved the incentives by a 6-1 vote, with Marconi casting the lone no vote.

"I don't know that this one meets the test," she said of the IDA's standard for issuing tax breaks.

Northwest Bank has a 10-year lease with Ciminelli Real Estate for space at 375 Essjay Road in Centerpointe Corporate Park. Mingoia said Friday the space has sat vacant for at least four years and probably five years.

Northwest Bank, in a filing with the IDA, fleshed out the details of the project that the bank first announced last month. The bank promises to create 67 jobs within two years after work on the project is finished. Northwest also said it will retain 33 jobs by moving into the headquarters building positions now filled at sites scattered throughout the region, including Pennsylvania.

However, Northwest went further in saying it could create a total of 115 jobs within five years.

"Certainly, the return on the investment justifies this type of project," IDA board member Edward Stachura said Friday.

The opening of the new, 25,000-square-foot headquarters is meant to give the bank space for a call center, training center, regional executives and back-office support departments. About $1 million of the cost would go toward renovations and $500,000 would go toward furnishings.

Construction on the currently vacant space would begin by the end of this month and finish by July 1.

Northwest bulked up its presence in the region last year by acquiring 18 former First Niagara branches. The bank has 167 full-service and nine drive-through locations in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Maryland.

Empire State Development also is providing $800,000 in Excelsior tax credits for the project.

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