Amazon’s stalled warehouse project in the Town of Niagara won a reprieve Wednesday.
The Niagara County Industrial Development Agency, in a unanimous vote, granted the e-commerce giant a six-month extension on a package of $124 million in property, sales and mortgage tax subsidies tied to its proposed distribution center.
That means Amazon has until February 2024 to close on the subsidies the agency granted one year ago for its planned 3 million square-foot facility on Packard Road. Board Chairman Mark Onesi said the IDA could vote on two more six-month extensions, meaning Amazon could have until February 2025 to begin its project.
Amazon spokesperson Steve Kelly described the extension as “administrative in nature.”
The subsidy package for that warehouse is the sixth largest Amazon has ever received for a project, including its second headquarters in Arlington, Virginia.
The timeline for opening the 1,000-employee facility is not clear. Kelly would not comment on when the company plans to break ground, finish construction or begin hiring. Amazon did, however, purchase the land for the facility in late July, he said.
Beyond that, the company has had little communication with the IDA, according to interviews and records obtained by Investigative Post under the state Freedom of Information Law.
In June, a New York Department of State staffer emailed the Niagara County Economic Development department to ask what was “holding up” the Amazon project.
Economic Development Commissioner Michael Casale replied: “Right now, we continue to be in a holding pattern on the project.”
IDA attorney Mark Gabriele confirmed Wednesday that the agency has not “had much contact with them.”
In March, the New York Power Authority awarded Amazon 10.7 megawatts of low-cost hydroelectric power.
Onesi said he believes Amazon purchasing the land for its project means it’s only a matter of time before its project is underway.
“As long as they’re going to build I’m happy,” he said. “It may be a little bit longer but it’s still positive, it’s not a negative factor. People come for extensions all the time.”
In the past year, the IDA has granted extensions to two other projects, one for a manufacturing facility and another for an entertainment complex, both in Niagara Falls. The agency has granted subsidies to more than a dozen projects in the same time period.
The ending of the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed Amazon’s business, as fewer people are working at home. As a result, the company has canceled or delayed 116 projects around the country since early 2022, according to data compiled by MWPVL International, a Montreal-based logistics consulting firm.
Five of those closed or delayed Amazon facilities are in New York. Two — one in Hamburg and another in Gates, near Rochester — are on hold. Two in New York City and one on Long Island, have closed.
MWPVL President Marc Wulfraat said he’s not yet counting the Niagara County project as on hold yet because the building is not constructed.
Wulfraat said the company began canceling, delaying and closing facilities after a poor financial showing in early 2022.
“[CEO] Andy Jassy had to turn it around and quickly so they closed buildings where there was redundancy due to duplicity, they canceled projects that can wait for another day and they delayed opening completed distribution centers to avoid adding payroll expense until they need the capacity,” Wulfraat said.
“All of these actions make good business sense and in mid-2023 the company is clearly in better financial health.”