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Massena mayor looks to Brazil for GM site ideas

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MASSENA — A city south of the equator could provide lessons for Massena as it attempts to redevelop the General Motors Powertrain site, according to Mayor James F. Hidy.

At Thursday’s North Country Redevelopment Task Force meeting, Mr. Hidy distributed an article he had read about Manaus, Brazil. Nokia, Honda, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Panasonic, Harley-Davidson and nearly 600 other companies all have a presence in the city of more than 1 million near the Amazon rain forest, according to the literature Mr. Hidy handed out.

Manaus had offered a series of incentives, including massive reductions on import duties, no tax on industrialized products and a 75 percent reduction on the income tax. Mr. Hidy said Massena should push its state and federal officials to offer a similar incentive program for companies to take advantage of in the north country.

“Here is a city that is in the middle of nowhere and they’ve got a ton of companies,” he said. “We can’t even get anyone to come in here and make tents or widgets.”

Mr. Hidy said he had a friend who worked for the Carrier Corp. and had to travel 100 miles down a narrow highway in the Amazon to visit the city. After the meeting, he declined to mention specifically who that friend was, but said the person was impressed with what Manaus had to offer.

“How do 600-plus companies end up in Brazil?” he asked.

Mr. Hidy said all levels of U.S. government should consider how to provide better incentives to companies.

“You’ve got to give these guys more of an incentive than cheap power,” he said.

“Slave labor, maybe,” said Jason A. Clark, executive director of the Business Development Corporation for a Greater Massena.

Mr. Hidy, who had been critical of Mr. Clark in the past, called his comment a “bad remark.” Richard Daddario, of Laborers International Union Local 322, suggested Mr. Clark was joking.

“I didn’t care for that joke,” Mr. Hidy said.

Other officials weren’t sure Manaus’s success could translate in the north country or Massena.

“To compare Massena and New York state to what they’re doing in Brazil, that’s a tough issue,” Legislator Anthony Arquiett said.

Daniel S. Pease, Massena BDC president, said state and local economic development agencies can assemble an incentive package of tax abatements and other incentives when a prospective company considers the region. But those incentives are assembled only after a company considers the area, and not beforehand, he said.

“It’d be nice if we could get a package that was preapproved, but it doesn’t work like that,” Mr. Pease said.

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