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MAY 19 - MAY 26, 2015

Only in NT - Time for Some Answers at Buffalo Bolt

By Sweeney Payne

May 19, 2015

Sweeney Payne says there is a lot of uncertainty about the Buffalo Bolt property.

A February 17, 2010 Tonawanda News article described the scope of the Buffalo Bolt Business Park project, giving credit to Assemblyman Robin Schimminger for his helping to secure $1.2 million in state funds. An April 30, 2010 article said planners were undertaking millions of dollars worth of work and hoped to offer the site to a variety of light industrial tenants. They hoped to get it back on the tax rolls.

We're still waiting….five years later. A May 11, 2011 article indicated change orders left the rehabilitation of the former bolt factory under budget. City Engineer Dale Marshall indicated that five separate excavations had been done in addition to the roughly $1 million in work to install infrastructure, curbing and a looping roadway to the "burgeoning business park."

Four years later, where is that "burgeoning business park"? The article said the 22-acre former bolt factory was being marketed as roughly eight, shovel-ready lots. Mayor Ortt said that Aquasol had purchased two lots and Armstrong Pumps might consider buying three, even as an anonymous city business had also expressed interest, which was Taylor Devices, no doubt. The Armstrong Pumps expansion plan was meant to retain more than 80 jobs in North Tonawanda. Armstrong Pumps at 93 East Avenue has occupied what had been the only remaining active building on the site, located on a 4.9 acre parcel, adjacent to the northwest part of the site, since 1985, when Roblin Industries sold them the acreage as well as the building on that portion.

Armstrong Pumps, hoping to expand into the Buffalo Bolt Business Park, tendered an offer of $40,000 to North Tonawanda for the remaining three parcels in the park, which encompass a little over 8 acres. At the time of their offer, they employed 148 people and had outgrown their current 110,000 sq. ft. facility. They estimated they would be able to add an additional 25-50 jobs with the addition of the three lots. Where is Armstrong Pumps' expansion? It's now four years later.

Brittany Industries had used an address of 222 Ironton Street but recent online listings indicate it has merged with Keller Bros. & Miller and is located in Buffalo. The Ironton property is now part of the Taylor Device property, acquired while Taylor Device's President and CEO, Douglas Taylor, had been and still is the only chairman of the Board of Directors of LCDC since Mayor David Burgio facilitated its creation. How about that for a conflict of interest!

Aquasol had expressed interest in the park at one time. It still occupies its 80 Thompson Street facility. Where is it in the Buffalo Bolt Business Park? Mayor Robert Ortt said "There's a lot of tax dollars on some level invested in this property so we want to make sure we're headed in the right direction." How many years is that going to take?

Exactly how much of our money was invested in the property to date? What else needs to be done?

Why are there no signs promoting it as a business park; the only sign we can see being on at the end of 8th Avenue at Ironton Street, if you can get down that stretch of 8th Avenue without ruining your tires, which reads, "Buffalo Bolt Campus, Private Property, No entrance." There was a contest, more a photo op on March 11, 2011 for Mayor Ortt. to rename the road into it, in preparation for selling part of the property, the old Lincoln Radiator-Niagara Radiator facility and land, to Taylor Devices. The contest ended up renaming that portion of 10th Avenue "Buffalo Bolt Way." We needed a contest for that!

Douglas Taylor, of course, is a close friend and long time supporter of former Mayor Burgio who created LCDC. Taylor Devices took over what used to be 222 Ironton Street and what is now 1 Buffalo Bolt Way, 6 Buffalo Bolt Way and 7 Buffalo Bolt Way.

The 1 Buffalo Bolt Way portion is wholly exempt from property taxes. The other two lots at 6 and 7 are vacant land and still taxable. The lots are both listed on the City Assessor's site as having a full market value of $18,533 each but being assessed for tax purposes at $17,050 each. One Buffalo Bolt Way is listed with a full market value of $706,522 and an assessment for tax purposes of $650,000. Of course this is the "wholly exempt" portion of the property.

A September 18, 2012 article and photo op announcing a National Grid award noted that Taylor Devices had purchased three of the lots and invested "$2.7 million in resuscitating them."

This after all of the taxpayer funded environmental remediation? How much did the environmental remediation cost us? How many employees now work there who didn't already work in NT? Do they patronize Oliver Street businesses and restaurants? Do they live in NT?

In September 2012, Aquasol was still supposed to be purchasing two lots and a third local business was expressing interest in the remaining space in the business park. We assume that was Taylor Devices after the departure of Brittany Industries. In August 2012, the Common Council approved using the $140,597 state grant for electrical work, which was to be performed by National Grid. National Grid indicated it would require 4-6 weeks to complete the project, "leaving the likelihood that the entire site will be ready for business by the end of the year." That was more than two years ago. Is the "entire site" ready for business yet?

On November 3, 2013, it was announced that Taylor Devices was in operation in the Buffalo Bolt Business Park. The plant is hidden away at the rear at the end of Buffalo Bolt Way where it connects with Iron Street, totally invisible from Oliver Street. A project summary presented to LCDC gave the budget for the 222 Ironton Street project: Assistance: a 15-year PILOT project; sales tax abatements; mortgage tax abatement. That is the taxpayers' investment in Taylor Devices, whose 2015 sales dropped to $20,011,228, from $24,729,585 in 2013. Why wasn't this "expansion" funded by them instead of NT taxpayers?

Taylor's proposal indicated they were to purchase three buildings on Ironton Street to expand their capacity and consolidate operations from a site in the Town of Tonawanda. The renovation would include upgrading of power to the building and addition of cranes for material handling. They were also to move machining processes from their Tonawanda Island site.

The project costs were: land $38,000; building acquisition $285,000; renovation $2,200,000, site work and preparation $62,000, and soft costs $120,000, a total of $2,705.000.

Estimated property tax exemptions for improvements for the 15 year PILOT were to be $400,000, with estimated annual real property taxes paid at the conclusion of the PILOT to be $63,000. Estimated sales tax exemptions on construction and furnishing of the building were estimated at $909,000. Twenty new jobs were proposed, 20 at the facility with an annual payroll for them of $1,000,000, and an annual total payroll of $5,200,000. Have they added those new jobs? How much per job has that cost NT taxpayers? What is the amount of property taxes we will not receive from this business whose stock is publicly traded because of their being granted exempt status? Talk about corporate welfare!

It's going on three years and, except for the pre-existing Armstrong Pumps and Taylor Devices operations, the site is vacant behind our $50,000 fence which has never had a sign on it to inform anyone driving past that it is supposed to be a business park.





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