Friend: Panasonic’s Pull Out Of NY Highlights Problems With Buffalo Billion

Assemblyman Christopher S. Friend (R,C,I-Big Flats) is calling for transparency from the governor and Empire State Development (ESD) over the floundering Buffalo Billions project, which faces yet another blow as Panasonic Corp. has announced that it will be pulling out of New York. By closing up shop at the state-owned RiverBend facility, the company is eliminating 400 needed jobs in Western New York.

“In a recent hearing, I point-blank asked ESD President and CEO Eric Gertler about the progress at the solar manufacturing site and received no indication that there were these significant problems on the horizon. Now, after spending nearly $1 billion in taxpayer funds, Panasonic is pulling out and eliminating 400 jobs for western New York – it’s ridiculous that the state doesn’t have a better handle on this,” said Friend, who is the Ranking Minority on the Assembly Committee on Economic Development, Job Creation, Commerce and Industry.

Friend has been seeking more oversight over the out-of-control economic development program since its inception. The Buffalo Billions program has been plagued by scandal, with billions of taxpayer dollars being wasted. It was troubled by bid rigging and corruption which led to the convictions of Louis Ciminelli, Alain Kaloyeros and Joseph Percoco.

Further still, the governor had softened the job target requirements for the RiverBend facility, originally requiring 1,450 direct manufacturing jobs, 2,000 throughout the state and 1,440 indirect jobs to support the factory. The target had moved to 1,460 jobs by April 2020, of which only 500 would be in manufacturing. From what can be gathered, Panasonic is only staying around just long enough so the April jobs target can be made in order to avoid a $41 million penalty. After that, operations will cease and the company will be out of the factory by September.

“New Yorkers have invested billions of dollars for a pipe dream. The state must stop taking such high financial risks for so little in return. Programs like Buffalo Billions and START-UP NY are not how to build economic growth. Manufacturing, business and overall economies flourish when states diligently remove hurdles to growth such as onerous regulations and oppressive taxes. Let’s spend time improving the business climate so jobs may grow,” concluded Friend.