Updated: May 18, 2021 05:52 PM
Created: May 18, 2021 04:37 PM
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — The Rochester Building and Construction Trades Council is outraged after the County of Monroe Industrial Development Agency (COMIDA) voted in favor to bring in some outside contractors to help build the proposed Amazon Warehouse and Distribution Center in Gates.
The online retailer asked for, and was granted, a tax break waiver from COMIDA Board Members. This now frees them from having to hire only local workers for the project.
Amazon intends to build this warehouse and distribution center on Manitou Road in Gates, and offer 1,000 permanent jobs. Local union members feel they're now being denied a fair chance to work on the project when the actual construction begins.
The Rochester Building and Trades Council says it's unfair to them that COMIDA has now granted both Amazon, and its developer Trammell Crow Company a 30% blanket local labor waiver. President Grant Malone explains why this would hurt his members.
"They'll be able to bring contractors, and workers from out of state to do the work when we got people readily available in this area that are very skilled and qualified to do the work," Malone said.
Tuesday morning they demonstrated outside the County Office Building just prior to the board's vote.
"We don't think it's fair that they're gonna vote on giving a major developer an opportunity to bring out of state contractors when they will receive over $150 million of tax abatements from the county. Our taxpayer money," Malone said.
Amazon's request for a blanket local labor waiver did get support from several local leaders including Gates Town Supervisor Cosmo Guinta, in a letter read by Monroe County Director of Planning and Development Ana Liss to the Board:
"The Town of Gates is excited about this project, and the economic activity it will bring in the short-term during the construction process when more than 500 workers per day will be on-site, and for the next 20 years when more than 1,000 permanent employees will bring new life to the Rochester Tech Park."
COMIDA did vote 4 - 3 to approve the 30% waiver. It will provide more than $40.8M to local labor contracts, and over $17.5M to non-local labor contracts.
Malone is quite disappointed with the voting result which he discussed with News10NBC's Patrick Moussignac.
"So it's at 17, that we have a problem with. That 17, we're not going to get a bite of that apple Pat, okay. That's my point, and their opinion is, 'Well Grant something is better than nothing.' Well, I disagree Pat. We need to get a fair shake first before we open up to anybody else, because we live here. We pay taxes here. We raise our families here," Malone said.
Amazon currently has warehouse and distribution centers in both Greece, and Henrietta. The proposed Manitou Road, 2.6 million square foot facility is estimated to cost more than $400 million to build.
No word yet on when construction will begin.
Monroe County Executive Adam Bello sent the following statement Tuesday:
"The COMIDA board had a difficult decision to make on the Amazon project and I want to thank each and every member for taking their time to study the issue and for their due diligence throughout this process. At over $500 million, this is an important and needed project. Amazon’s investment in our community is significant and represents the largest single construction project ever brought before the COMIDA board, creating 2,000 construction jobs and over 1,000 permanent jobs when completed. This project will have a lasting economic impact on Monroe County and comes at a time when too many people are without employment because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"However, as with every project, we need to make sure applicants seeking local incentives employ local workers and comply with their agreements. My administration is committed to ensuring Amazon complies with this new local labor agreement, and that local labor receives as much of the work on this project as possible."
Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Bob Duffy released the following statement on the waiver approval:
“Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce is proud that Amazon chose Rochester for the projects underway in Gates and Ogden. Greater Rochester Chamber actively supported this waiver request and the larger projects, and we will always stand up for economic growth and prosperity. Beyond the direct jobs that result from this construction which number in the thousands, the economic impact of this investment will be felt for decades to come. I commend the COMIDA board members who voted to support economic investment and workforce development. They put the community before politics.”
Amazon itself also weighed in:
“Amazon has a variety of projects in various stages across the U.S. and we are proud to support the creation of job opportunities for residents in those areas, even before our operations facilities launch. During the construction process, our developers and general contractors use an open bid process available to any qualified party who shows interest in a project; this includes both non-union and union, local, regional, and national contractors with the relevant experience and expertise. As always, we follow all local and state labor policies and processes."
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