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Serving the communities of Massena and Potsdam, New York

Massena BDC continues MAC membership

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MASSENA - The Business Development Corporation for a Greater Massena will be staying in the Mayor’s Automotive Coalition for at least another year.

The BDC’s Board of Directors voted unanimously this week to pay the $3,000 it owed for 2011 membership and an additional $3,000 for 2012. The BDC has been a member of the advocacy group since 2009, according to Executive Director Jason A. Clark.

He is on the organization’s five-member national steering committee. The coalition has approximately 20 members from communities with current or former auto plants. Membership has provided a voice for Massena in Washington as the community has transitioned following the closure of the General Motors Powertrain plant in 2009, Mr. Clark said.

The $3,000 pays for staffing expenses for the Ferguson Group, a lobbying firm with offices on Connecticut Avenue in Washington, several blocks from the White House. The firm in turn works on the coalition’s behalf, Mr. Clark said.

Board members had previously scrutinized the expense and considered membership termination. But Mr. Clark said the board could revisit the spending again in another year, as he has approached MAC to assist Massena on several issues.

“If there’s no tangible benefit that’s incurred over the course of this year, then it’s something we can discontinue next year,” he said.

The BDC had unsuccessfully applied for River Valley Redevelopment Agency funds to pay for the membership. Without the RVRDA award, the BDC chose to continue membership with its own funds.

Board member Larry Ralston previously scrutinized the expense. He has since learned more about MAC and sees it as worthwhile.

“We have to have someone at the table if we’re going to take care of Massena,” Mr. Ralston said.

Town Councilman Charles A. Raiti strongly urged the board to stay associated with the coalition.

“I know your budget’s tough. I know what you’re going through,” he said. “You’ve got to roll the dice in my opinion ... We know how critical the site is, has been and is in the future.”

“I’d be satisfied Chuck if I had the town and village saying it was a worthy cause,” Board President Daniel S. Pease said.

Mr. Pease said he had heard voices of dissent about the project. Mayor James F. Hidy has been a vocal critic of the BDC’s MAC membership.

“The loudest screams coming from the village are against the idea,” Mr. Pease said.

Mr. Hidy continued his criticism of the MAC membership on Friday.

“I’m shocked they would continue this,” he said. “It’s just another chapter.”

Tensions had run high in the past between Mr. Hidy and Mr. Clark. The MAC membership allows Mr. Clark to travel to Washington and get “face time in front of people that could help elevate him to the next career level,” Mr. Hidy said.

“There’s no reason for him to be a member of this,” he said. “I view this as irresponsible spending.”

Mr. Clark declined to respond to Mr. Hidy’s comments and deferred instead to a remark he made at Thursday’s meeting.

“I think it’s important people put aside their individual differences and come together for the good of the community,” he said.

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