North Country county IDAs fare better than those in other regions
Wednesday, May 2, 2012 - 1:56 pm

The state Comptroller says “taxpayers are not getting enough bang for their buck” when it comes to county Industrial Development Agencies, but a report from his office shows North Country agencies are not faring badly.

The examination of IDAs in the state shows that activity by the quasi-governmental agencies slowed in 2010.

IDAs in the North Country region, as defined by the comptroller’s office to include St. Lawrence, Lewis, Jefferson, Franklin, Essex and Clinton counties, do not seem to fare as badly as those in some other areas of the state, according to the Annual Performance Report on New York State’s Industrial Development Agencies.” < >

IDAs are empowered to negotiate tax-exemption deals and other incentives with companies that wish to expand or retain their workforces, in exchange for agreements to meet job goals.

The number of projects that IDA is involved with was down in the study period, and cumulative job gains, ostensibly the main emphasis of the program, were also down, the report noted.

The report also notes that the average cost per job gained under the program was up in 2010, the latest year examined by the Office of the State Comptroller.

The St. Lawrence County IDA claimed an estimated +923 jobs in 2010.

In St. Lawrence County, the “cost per job gained,” based on the amount of tax exemptions granted and the number of jobs claimed, was $183, compared with $106 in neighboring Franklin County, the lowest of any upstate county, and $1,495 in Jefferson County. The highest among upstate counties was $44,955 in Greene County. An IDA’s operating expenses per job gained were $966 in St. Lawrence, $532 in Franklin, and $3,258 in Jefferson county.

Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli is submitting legislation that can make it easier for local taxpayers to evaluate the worth of a local IDA’s work. It would include “clawbacks” that allow a repayment of benefits from a company that does not meet employment goals.

The report also strikes a growing note of concern over the related agencies known as Local Development Corporations.

“Although LDCs can be useful tools in cultivating new community investments, recent audits of local governments have found LDCs are being used to circumvent state laws which govern local government finances and operations,” the report’s summary said.

There are eight LDCs listed in St. Lawrence County:

• St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency Civic Development Corporation, 80 State Highway 310, Canton

• St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency Local Development Corporation, 80 State Highway 310, Canton

• St. Lawrence County Local Development Corporation, 80 State Highway 310, Canton

• Business Development Corporation for a Greater Massena , 85 Robinson Road, Massena

• Canton Capital Resource Corporation, Municipal Building, 60 Main Street, Canton

• Canton Local Development Corporation, Municipal Building, 60 Main Street, Canton

• Ogdensburg Growth Fund Development Corporation, 330 Ford Street, Ogdensburg

• Potsdam Community Development Corporation, Potsdam

The comptroller gas also submitted legislation that would add audits of LDCs to that office’s responsibility.