Montgomery County lawmakers approved on Tuesday a payment in lieu of taxes agreement for the Hero Group’s plans to build a new Beech-Nut baby food factory in the county’s Florida Business Park.
The decision followed several comments during a public hearing in which labor union representatives decried the absence of any provisions to ensure that local workers will take part in the construction work.
Several speakers said North Carolina-based Buckner Steel Erection recently won a major contract with the Hero Group/Beech-Nut Nutrition Corp. to work on the proposed $124 million facility.
A call placed to Buckner late Tuesday went unanswered. A message left at the Hero Group/Beech-Nut corporate office in Latham was not returned Tuesday night.
Jeff Stark, Capital District Area Labor Federation vice president, said Beech-Nut officials confirmed in a meeting with labor representatives that Buckner received a contract in excess of $7 million for the town of Florida project.
Stark said there has been no commitment from the Hero Group that local workers would be involved, eliminating the chance for local youths to be involved through an introductory construction trades initiative.
“I don’t understand how these people tell me this is economic development when they don’t want to do 100 percent an economic development project so it’s good for everyone,” Stark said.
Stark said labor union representatives attended another public hearing at the Florida Town Hall Tuesday evening. That hearing focused on the site plan and environmental review of the Beech-Nut project.
Gary Simmons, a business representatives for Iron Workers Local 12, said there are local companies capable of performing work on the Beech-Nut plant.
“It just breaks my heart we would give this work away,” Simmons said.
Frank Natalie, president of the Schenectady Central Labor Council, Capital District Area Labor Federation AFL-CIO and business agent of the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 7, said the state and local benefits being extended to the Hero Group are coming out of local taxpayers’ pockets.
“Hero/Beech-Nut should be sensitive to the welfare of our communities, but they have already awarded a major contract for the construction of their new facility to an out-of-state contractor using out-of-state workers,” Natalie said.
“This kind of treatment of our local workers, families and communities by Hero/Beech-Nut is unacceptable. The workers, taxpayers and residents of our communities are investing millions and millions of dollars in Hero/Beech-Nut, and they deserve a return on their investment,” Natalie said.
The Hero Group is being offered a 20-year payment in lieu of taxes agreement that relieves the company from paying any property taxes until 2014.
The PILOT agreement as structured would require the company to start making $2.5 million payments to be shared by the town of Florida, Montgomery County and the Greater Amsterdam School District, according to a breakdown provided by the county’s economic development office.
The Montgomery County Board of Supervisors approved the new local law later in the meeting.
County Board of Supervisors Chairman Vito Greco said there are no provisions at the county level that could be used to require that local workers be involved in the project.
“I honestly and truly understand where they’re coming from,” Greco said of those who spoke during the public comment period.
The Hero Group is a private company, Greco pointed out.
“I can’t force them to do anything,” Greco said.
More from The Daily Gazette:
Categories: Schenectady County