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By Matthew Daneman

February 25, 2012

The state agency that oversees New York’s public authorities says it likely will investigate the County of Monroe Industrial Development Agency’s work with a Henrietta company.

A bipartisan group of Buffalo-area lawmakers and several labor and social justice organizations wrote the state Authorities Budget Office this week, seeking an investigation into 2008 COMIDA tax breaks given to Ward’s Natural Science Establishment LLC.

Authorities Budget Office director David Kidera on Friday said that while the request still was being evaluated, it likely would result in at least a preliminary look into the details of the Ward’s agreement and whether there was any violation of state law.

Ward’s, a supplier of science education materials, received $259,000 in county tax breaks for a 52,800-square-foot addition to its Henrietta site. The tax breaks were in exchange for guarantees that Ward’s would hire as many as 24 people over the ensuing three years. And as of the end of 2011, according to COMIDA, the Henrietta facility employed 257 — 49 more than it did when it received the tax breaks.

But Ward's late last year also 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 in Erie County.

A crowd of protesters, including representatives of some of the signatory groups to the Authorities Budget Office letter, packed a COMIDA meeting this week to decry what they said were tax breaks for shifting jobs around western New York, not creating them.

The letter seeking the investigation asks the state “to determine whether COMIDA (and Ward’s parent company) violated New York state law by shifting jobs through taxpayer-funded support.”

Ward’s Scientific has insisted the relocation of the Tonawanda jobs was unrelated to any public incentives but done for greater business efficiency.

Signers of the letter include Teamsters Joint Council 46; the Western New York Labor Federation; the Rochester and Genesee Valley Area Labor Federation; Republican state Sens. George Maziarz, Catharine Young and Mark Grisanti; Democratic Sen. Timothy Kennedy; and Democratic Assemblyman Sean Ryan.

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