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By Matthew Daneman

February 21, 2012

The County of Monroe Industrial Development Agency on Tuesday approved tax breaks for [two new] projects, as well as major renovations to the Mall at Greece Ridge and Rochester’s Strathallan Hotel. But much of Tuesday’s meeting revolved around approvals given four years ago to a Henrietta project.

A group of protesters from western New York labor and social justice groups attended COMIDA’s monthly meeting Tuesday in downtown Rochester, pointing to the Ward’s Natural Science Esablishment LLC tax breaks as emblemic of a dysfunctional Industrial Development Agency system in New York and asking that the COMIDA board rescind the breaks.

The science education materials supplier in 2008 received $259,000 in county tax breaks for a 52,800-square-foot addition to its Henrietta site. The project was expected to generate 24 jobs.

Ward’s... closed its warehouse operations in Tonawanda, Erie County, after IDA tax breaks there expired, and is moving that work to Henrietta. Approximately 40 people were laid off. The end result, according to the protesters, is tax breaks for shifting jobs around western New York, not creating them...

Half a dozen protesters spoke at the meeting, bemoaning what one of them termed “corporate welfare.” “You guys enticed a company to come to Rochester ... at the cost of economic development that could have happened in Buffalo,” said Occupy Buffalo member John Washington. “You guys aren’t corporations. You shouldn’t be competing with one another.”

COMIDA did not directly address the protesters’ demand or criticisms. But COMIDA Executive Director Judy Seil said that Ward’s Henrietta employment has grown from 208 in April 2008 to 257 as of the end of 2011 — exceeding its job growth requirements sevenfold.

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