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Development debate building over Hamburg Amazon project

WBFO file photo

A familiar community struggle over the value of a development project is emerging in Hamburg.  The world's richest company, Amazon, is seeking tax breaks to locate a warehouse near Woodlawn Beach State Park.

The debate in front of a Hamburg Industrial Development Agency public hearing dragged on for hours and the agency will meet next week for a possible decision. The $47 million warehouse would have around a hundred full and part-time Amazon workers supplying hundreds of independent truck driver contractors who will deliver that last mile.

Executive Director Sean Doyle says there is a price from the taxpayers.

"Any amount not to exceed $6,848,345. This assistance contemplated by the agency will include mortgage tax abatements, sales tax exemption on the materials and/or equipment purchased for installation into the property and real property abatements, tax abatements," Doyle said.

Opponents shared their concerns. Mary Strnad says you can’t live on what Amazon is expected to pay its employees.

"$31,000 is just what the new minimum wage is for New York. It’s $15. Big deal. Who could live on $31,000? It’s barely enough to support one tiny apartment. Don’t go having any pets or any hobbies or get married and have kids."

Others pointed out how Amazon didn’t need subsidies for other operations in Lancaster and the Town of Tonawanda.

Amazon Senior Manager, Economic Development Brad Griggs says every project is different. He says the company analyzes the "reduction in our operating expenses from the property tax abatement, from the up-front cost reduction related to the sales tax to help this project move forward."

It has the backing of Town Supervisor Jim Shaw who believes the town needs the jobs and the economic development. After ten years, the project would pay full property taxes. Shaw is not seeking reelection.

The Hamburg Industrial Development Agency meets on Tuesday, possibly to take a vote on the tax breaks.



Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.