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Local labor policy aims to address unemployment issues

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Local hiring policies are becoming more commonplace as a way to address regional unemployment and strengthen the tax base. New quotas for local workers were just approved by the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency.

The new labor policy means that construction companies that receive Niagara County IDA economic development incentives will have to recruit at least 90 percent of their workforce from counties in western New York.

IDA Board Member Steve Brady says the policy makes sure that county residents directly benefit from the work being done in their neighborhood.

“Obviously we want them to look at Niagara County first, but that includes Erie, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Allegany, Wyoming, Genesee, and Orleans counties,” said Brady.

Developers will also be required to submit quarterly reports on where workers live and there will be a system of spot checks to ensure they meet the requirements until the job is over. Brady says that shouldn’t impede development.

“There are some exceptions that would be allowed, particularly in the instance if someone is installing a piece of equipment that requires very specialized knowledge to install or perhaps might void a warranty if it’s not done by the person that manufactured that piece of equipment the project applicant can apply for a waiver in those circumstances,” said Brady.

Rochester Institute of Technology Economics Professor Amit Batabyl says the strategy has good intentions, but it doesn’t take into account the skill level of the available workforce.

“The problem with this type of policy is that it doesn’t pay any attention to necessarily hiring the most qualified people," he said. "What if the most qualified construction workers happen to be outside of the eight county area, then do we not hire them and hire less qualified people just because where they are resident?”

President of the Buffalo Building Trades Council Paul Brown says he disagrees.

“Workers locally are really, really highly trained and skill wise there is nobody that does better than workers here,” Brown said.

Lockport Mayor Michael Tucker says the policy is a win, win for everyone. He says it will keep much needed jobs in the area and stop money from leaving upstate New York.