Taxpayer money was lost with Muller shutdown

Posted at 9:02 AM, Dec 12, 2015

The former Muller-Quaker Yogurt Plant in Batavia could have a new future. The plant only opened two and a half years ago, before it was shutdown.

The plant received $14 million in tax incentives that helped make this project happen. Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul (D) stands by the investment. "There's a lot of market forces that we cannot control. But we can either plan the space or to say we're never going to do anything to lure businesses here," she said.

Not all of that money can be recuperated. However, experts do tell 7 Eyewitness News that not all of that money had been paid to Muller-Quaker yet.

"They did create the 170 jobs they promised, so they benefited the excelsior tax credits each year that they were here. Those no longer continue," Hochul explained. A representative from Empire State Development tells 7 Eyewitness News that Muller actually only received about $500,000 of more than $4 million in excelsior tax credits.

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R-Batavia) states that "taxpayer money was used to develop the park." Hawley continues to explained that "Alpina is in there and a number of others have expressed interest in locating there."

Could other major projects in western New York face a similar fate? Solar City has come under scrutiny by some stock analysts in recent months, stating that solar panel manufacturing could decline as a result of oil prices becoming more affordable.

Hochul stands by the project, explaining that currently western New Yorkers are in California to determine educational needs for future employees of the company.

"We're excited about it, we're moving full steam ahead with Solar City," Hochul stated. Solar City is received $750 million in state incentives, and is expected to create 15,000 jobs.

Other projects are popping up all over western New York, during an era of redevelopment. Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz (D) states that the Muller-Quaker shutdown is an example of why recapture policies are so important.

"You can have strong policies that protects workers and still have great economic redevelopment," Poloncarz said.

"If the company gets a tax break and it doesn't create the tax break they say they're going to, they have to re-pay the tax break," Poloncarz said, explaining the recapture policy. He adds that if a company completely pulls out, the county can recuperate more money. However, even if a company stays put but does not live up to its promises, the county can still get some tax breaks back.

A spokesperson tells 7 Eyewitness News that Genesee County did not have a recapture program in place. The state did adopt a recapture program for certain county property tax discounts given to new businesses, but that went into effect after Muller-Quaker opened in Batavia.

A media representative for the state stated due to privacy issues, the exact amount of incentives lost could not be given.




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