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In the End, Delaware North, Uniland Will Get Their Way

By Tony Farina

Jerry Jacobs is having a ball.
Two vastly different characters: Jeremy Jacobs is not rich enough (in spirit) not to take the people's money. the Dalai Lama, far wealthier man, does not need to take the bread away from the working families like Jacobs does, to accomplish his objectives.

In one form or another, and with a substantial amount of public assistance, the two business giants planning to team up in a new $80 million project at Delaware and Chippewa in downtown Buffalo are likely to get most of what they want despite the fact a lot of people don't like the deal.

Uniland and Delaware North just have too much political clout to come out on the short end of the debate over whether they need the kind of tax breaks they are seeking for the project.

Delaware North, a $2.6 billion company, says there is no other place in Buffalo except for the proposed Uniland project that would work as a global headquarters for its business enterprises and it has made noises about leaving town if it doesn't get the $800,000 in tax breaks it is seeking as part of the deal.

The public outcry by concerned taxpayers and local developers over the proposed venture and the size of the taxpayer assistance being sought "caught us off guard" and "hurt our feelings," said Jerry Jacobs Jr., son of Delaware North CEO Jeremy Jacobs Jr.

That's because the company is not used to being questioned, particularly in a city desperate to keep the company's 350 jobs here at any cost. So Delaware North just assumed that it would be an easy move---helped by tax breaks---from its current home in the Key Center to the new Delaware North building, a move of three blocks.

But Delaware North and Uniland have met resistance, and now they will have to work a little harder to sell the deal to the Erie County Industrial Development Agency which failed to immediately rubber stamp the breaks being sought after the taxpayer uprising.

Uniland has agreed to restructure and modify its financial aid request to "standard" tax breaks, not the full load of incentives it had been seeking before the taxpayer revolt. But now that the project has the public support of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, and Rep. Chris Collins---all of them recipients of generous political donations from Delaware North---there's little doubt that county and possibly state taxpayer help is on the way.

Uniland is expected to file its reduced request this week but ECIDA approval is not likely to come before next month, providing a kind of taxpayer cooling off period that will probably work in favor of the two giant companies.

At the end of the day, Delaware North will leave its current home in the south tower at Key Center---creating a tower of empty office space---and move into Uniland's new tower at Delaware and Chippewa. The Uniland project is also expected to include a hotel and a more than 500-space parking ramp for which Uniland - the largest developer and manager of office, flex and industrial space in the Buffalo-Rochester corridor-- had been seeking the special incentives.

The taxpayer revolt over the subsidies being sought was a surprise to a lot of people, not just Delaware North and Uniland, who are used to seeing these applications approved without objection in this part of the state. At least in this case, the public has taken a stand against the kind of corporate welfare that has become a way of life around here.

We know this region needs help attracting and keeping business because of high taxes, a poor image, and bad weather, but the routine of helping the rich get richer gets tiresome after a while. It is nice to see that taxpayers will stand up for themselves if they get the full story before the deal is done, as happened in this case.



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

Nov 12, 2013