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ECIDA backs incentives for multiple projects

Updated: August 21, 2012, 9:18 AM

The Erie County Industrial Development Agency on Monday backed incentives to revitalize the Tishman Building, rebuild a Buffalo manufacturing plant and help a printing company and a technology company to relocate.

Mark Hamister is leading a $40 million push to revitalize the Tishman Building, a Lafayette Square property that formerly was National Fuel's headquarters. The real estate holding company formed to acquire the property, Hamister Hospitality Wake LLC, was approved for $1.57 million in sales and mortgage recording tax savings.

The property would contain a 123-room Hilton Garden Inn hotel, 18 market-rate apartments and the Hamister Group's headquarters, which are currently in Amherst.

"I think this project is very important to the revitalization of Buffalo also, as is the Hotel Lafayette," said John LaFalce, the ECIDA board chairman.

Niagara Lubricant plans to rebuild a manufacturing plant on Chandler Street in Buffalo, a project estimated at $2.2 million. The Niagara Lubricant plant was destroyed by an industrial chemical fire in July 2011, and the company, which employs 31 people, has operated from temporary space since then.

While the 60,000-square-foot project was approved for $172,000 in property tax and sales tax savings, some board members questioned what steps the company would take to suppress fires and ensure safety for neighborhood residents.

John Cappellino, the ECIDA's executive vice president, said Niagara Lubricant is working with fire and emergency officials on its plans and providing an up-to-date list of chemicals used on site.

"I think everybody hopes with the new construction standards, [the new plant] would be a lot more resistant to the type of incident we saw in July of 2011," he said.

The Zenger Group, a printing company, is combining three of its five area production facilities into one location that it is acquiring: the Science Kit building at 777 East Park Drive in the Town of Tonawanda. Eighty-nine Zenger employees will shift to the new location, and plans call for increasing the total to 109 in two years.

The total project is estimated at $4 million; Zenger was approved for $82,000 in sales and mortgage recording tax savings.

Zenger will sell two of the facilities impacted by the move, on Hertel Avenue in Buffalo and South Taylor Road in Orchard Park. The company will continue to own a facility on Lakeview Road in Hamburg and will use the space as needed.

Mayor Byron Brown voted against the incentives for Zenger "on principle," but he did not encourage other board members to vote likewise. While praising the company, Brown said he felt Zenger did not give the city sufficient time to find alternative sites to present as options.

US itek Group, a computer technology and service company, was approved for $32,500 in sales and mortgage recording tax savings related to its move to larger space within the Town of Tonawanda, at 1016 Niagara Falls Blvd. The total project is valued at $935,000.

In other business, the board approved extending a moratorium on ECIDA financial assistance to renovations of existing hotels - with certain exceptions - by one month, to Oct. 1. LaFalce said he needed time to meet with leaders of suburban IDAs and town supervisors in Erie County before moving forward on revising its policy regarding aid for hotels.

The moratorium does not affect projects such as the Tishman and former Donovan buildings because they involve opening new hotels in "adaptive reuse" situations, rather than supporting existing hotels, according to the ECIDA.

* Moog Inc. has increased the value of a new administration building it is constructing in Elma, and it received enhanced incentives for it. In August 2011, Moog was approved for $1.47 million in tax abatements for a project that was valued at $13 million. Moog has since increased the value of the project to $17.1 million; the board on Monday approved raising the tax abatements to $2.4 million.

* The board approved a $1 million grant to support infrastructure, roads and utilities on the former Bethlehem Steel site in Lackawanna, to support a new facility for Welded Tube USA. If Welded Tube meets an employment target of 75 jobs in five years, it does not need to repay the money. If it fails to achieve the job goal, the ECIDA would seek repayment of half the money.