The Albany County Legislature approved an Empire Zone designation Monday, March 10, in an industrial section of the town of Bethlehem.
World Logistics Group Inc. is a light assembly and distribution company looking to expand its business in the Feura Bush area and bring nearly 300 more jobs to town. It’s an area in Bethlehem that is still recovering from 250 recent layoffs at the nearby Owens Corning plant.
This will be the second Empire Zone designation in the town of Bethlehem with the first being designated for the pending Vista Park complex.
The bill to create the new zone in Bethlehem was sponsored by the area’s legislator, Democrat Tom Cotrofeld, and the Legislature’s majority leader, Frank Commisso, D-Albany. When presented to the floor for a vote, the bill was nearly unanimously adopted 35-to-1, with three legislators absent.
The bill was designed to encourage the economy and bring more stability to the area, Cotrofeld said. `This is great. It’s nice to see when we can encourage people to create jobs.`
Empire Zones are geographically defined areas within New York that qualify businesses located within the zones to be eligible for tax breaks paid for by the state. The program was designed by lawmakers to lure businesses to the state and to specific areas of the state.
Cotrofeld was elected to represent District 34 ` which lies entirely within the town of Bethlehem including parts of Elsmere, Delmar and Slingerlands ` after Jack Cunningham stepped down to become the town’s supervisor.
Cunningham said he sent a letter to the Albany County Legislature on behalf of the town supporting the new Empire Zone designation.
`They moved over there right around the time I took office,` Cunningham said, adding that the company was interested in an Empire Zone designation in order to expand.
`They are going to be distributing snowboards and wiring up snowsuits with MP3 players,` said Cunningham. `The area is already industrially zoned, and this will help bring back some more jobs in the area.`
Cunningham explained that the Empire Zone designation means that World Logistics Group will now be eligible to receive state assistance on their taxes. However, because the state is picking up some of the tab, Cunningham said, the local town tax base won’t be affected.
Bethlehem will still receive its taxes from the company, not to mention the effect of having an additional 300 employees driving around town.
George Leveille, the town’s economic development director, said it is always good to have jobs brought to the area. He said that World Logistics Group has already benefited the town, and the new jobs will only build on that benefit to the area.
`They moved in about a year ago in a small way,` said Leveille, indicating only a limited number of employees currently work there. `More importantly, this is a building that has been vacant for two or three years.`
The company moved into the 300,000-square-foot warehouse after a stationary and paper products company moved out nearly three years ago. The previous company’s tenure had been brief, according to Leveille.
`This is a real positive outcome with what was previously a disappointment,` Leveille concluded.
World Logistics Group representatives did not return calls on when the expansion of jobs will begin.
The bill passed in the county legislature as Local Law A of 2008, and it grants specific access to Empire Zone benefits to a `regionally significant distribution project.`
Although this isn’t Cotrofeld’s first sponsored bill to pass the Legislature in his first term of service, he said it was the first bill he sponsored that `directly affects the town of Bethlehem.`
`We’re really breaking some nice new ground here,` said Cotrofeld.“