Dan Hust | Democrat
As seen from Route 17, Ideal Snacks has already incorporated the former Liberty Lanes bowling alley into its expanding presence along Mill Street in Liberty.
IDA sets public hearing on 'Ideal' expansion plans
Story by Dan Hust
LIBERTY A $6 million Ideal Snacks expansion will be the subject of a public hearing on Monday, Nov. 26.
The Liberty snack manufacturer is building two two-story warehouses next to its existing 250,000-square-foot facility on Mill Street, collectively adding 106,000 square feet. The project includes the former Liberty Lanes bowling alley.
The expansion like four other Ideal expansions before it is being routed through the Sullivan County Industrial Development Agency (IDA), which is giving the company sales tax and real estate tax abatements.
Thus the public hearing is being handled by the IDA. It’s set for 9:45 a.m. Monday at the Liberty Town Hall at 120 North Main Street. That will be followed by a special IDA Board meeting at 10 a.m. at the same location, with a board vote anticipated.
The IDA’s independent cost-benefit analysis lists the total value of the abatements at just over $2.5 million.
The project is expected to generate up to 50 new full-time jobs and have an overall benefit to the community of more than $10 million, according to the analysis.
At this month’s IDA Board meeting where the hearing was approved unanimously, board member Sandy Shaddock who is the Teamsters Local 445 union’s business agent in Sullivan County urged her colleagues to look at the quality of jobs, not just the quantity, being offered by companies the IDA incentivizes.
“If you consistently bring in low-paying jobs… you create a system where they become dependent on the systems we [county government] provide,” she remarked.
Shaddock advocated for a job-quality provision to be part of requirements the IDA places on businesses seeking abatements.
“We need to make that conscientious, moral decision somewhere along the line,” she stated.
IDA attorney Walter Garigliano replied that the IDA no longer allows food processing manufacturers to apply for the Targeted Manufacturing Program, which abates real estate taxes at a higher rate than the General Abatement Program.
Ideal, however, was already in the Targeted program with the IDA before the rules changed in 2004, so it remains eligible to participate.
In an interview this week, IDA Executive Director Jennifer Brylinski said that New York State may be planning to make pay scale information a required part of applications for IDA benefits in the future.
Michael Ehrenberg, Ideal’s CPA and liaison to the IDA, noted the 50 new workers will be paid competitive wages and benefits. He would not divulge specifics, but he pointed out Ideal’s popularity amongst those seeking employment.
“We have 450 employees here already,” he said. “We probably get 5-10 people coming every day to our front office looking for jobs.”
These new workers, many of whom are expected to be hired when the warehouses are completed next year, will provide both skilled and unskilled labor typical of storage facilities, he added.
The expansion is necessary, Ehrenberg explained, to meet growing demand for Ideal’s products, which include certified organic and kosher snacks.