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Union leaders gather to object to tax breaks given to delivery firm for East Greenbush center

By Larry Rulison

June 22, 2011

EAST GREENBUSH -- Union officials gathered in East Greenbush on Tuesday to decry government subsidies being used to build the FedEx Ground distribution center along Route 4.

The Rensselaer County Industrial Development Agency has lined up roughly $2.4 million in tax breaks for the Indianapolis real estate company that will lease the $45 million facility to FedEx. The delivery firm, which is spending an additional $20 million on equipment, could also reap $1.6 million in sales tax breaks.

Frank Natalie, business agent of Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 7, said that a closer look needs to be taken at the subsidies being handed out by local IDAs as well as state government because they are burdening taxpayers.

"We will continue to see high unemployment and high taxes," Natalie said.

A study done for the project's developer, Scannell Properties of Indianapolis, says that the facility will support 317 jobs and will spend $22 million annually on wages and benefits, with another $9 million in indirect economic impact.

But Prairie Wells, an organizer with Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers Local #2, questions those numbers because the Rensselaer County IDA's 2010 annual report says that the facility will produce just four full-time jobs and 133 part-time jobs.

Robert Pasinella, the IDA's executive director, said Tuesday that his organization had to report the numbers that way because FedEx Ground relies mostly on independent contractors for its delivery drivers -- and that will be most of the type of people employed by the distribution center.

He said that in the first year, there are expected to be roughly 133 independent contractors and four full-time FedEx managers. But those numbers should increase to 300 within three years.

"It's significant for the area," Pasinella said.

A FedEx Ground spokesman did not return calls asking about the plant's projected employment numbers.

Union officials also said the FedEx project was not using local workers and had Susan Clark, an unemployed sheet metal worker, talk about how she wished she could work on the project. Clark said she was laid off from the Global Foundries computer chip factory project in Malta earlier this month.

"Unfortunately, I'm out of work again," Clark said. "I'm living proof of how the economy has collapsed and hasn't really bounced back again."

To read the full article, visit the Albany Times Union.