Regional Development

Laurentian Aerospace Corp
Laurentian Aerospace Corp

Public hearing held on Laurentian bonds

By: DAN HEATH

PLATTSBURGH — A local building-trades official renewed the call for a Project Labor Agreement for the Laurentian Aerospace Corp. proposal.

About 20 members of local trade organizations attended a County of Clinton Industrial Development Agency public hearing Monday afternoon on reauthorization to offer tax-exempt bonds to Laurentian. It is simply part of the process to make sure the IDA can issue the bonds if buyers are secured.

In June 2006, Laurentian announced plans to build a 273,000-square-foot, two-bay hangar for maintenance, repair and overhaul of wide-body jets at Plattsburgh International Airport. The project could result in 200 to 900 jobs, officials have said, but it has been stalled for years.

Recently, it was revived when developers signed an agreement with a leading Wall Street investment bank to work on securing financing for the more than $200 million project.

AGREEMENT PUSHED

Plattsburgh-Saranac Lake Building and Construction Trades Council President John Donoghue said the organizations he represents are in favor of the project but want to be included in the workforce needed to build it.

“Our enthusiasm for this project hasn’t diminished one bit, either,” he said.

His concern is that Laurentian’s contractor, Maine-based Cianbro, would be unlikely to use local subcontractors that pay area-standard wages and benefits.

Donoghue said the best way to ensure that happens is to have a Project Labor Agreement, which sets employment conditions such as wages, benefits and more on a project.

Project Labor Agreements were successfully used on the Crown Point bridge project and Global Foundries project in Malta, Donoghue said. The agreements help ensure projects get done on time and under budget with a high degree of safety and quality, he said.

EMPHASIS ON LOCAL

Laurentian Aerospace Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Andrew Edwards said Laurentian officials would push Cianbro to use a local workforce because it is the right thing to do and simply makes more economic sense.

But he didn’t agree that the only way to ensure that would be through a Project Labor Agreement.

“They (Cianbro) have instructions from the company to use local resources whenever they can,” Edwards said. 

Wages alone wouldn’t be the issue in choosing subcontractors, he said. The choices would be made based on factors such as quality, the company’s track record and insurance. 

Edwards said Laurentian is not opposed to the use of union labor.

“Laurentian Aerospace Corporation is not anti-union. We’re agnostic,” he said.

BIDDING FOR WORK

Donoghue said that while he was pleased to hear the commitment to local labor, it is easy for other contractors to under-bid Trade Council members, whose wages are posted on their websites. A Project Labor Agreement ensures a level playing field, he said.

Edwards said he would be happy to set up a meeting between trades officials and Cianbro representatives.

‘LIFE-CHANGING’

Also at the session, Town of Plattsburgh Deputy Supervisor Martin Mannix said he wanted to make it known on the record that the town remains in favor of the project and of the IDA’s ability to issue bonds.

“This could be a life-changing experience for the people of the North Country,” he said.

Edwards said reauthorizing the County of Clinton Industrial Development Agency to make a bond offering is primarily a procedural matter. 

“The authorization of the bond offering is not an indication that financing is going to move forward,” he said.

FUNDING EFFORTS

On Monday, Edwards said the agreement with the Wall Street bank remains in place.

“We are actively working on the financing,” he said Monday, adding that he doesn’t plan on any announcement until the company has the financing in hand.

IDA Executive Director Erin Hynes again stated there is no obligation to any municipality or taxpayers due to the issuance of the bonds.

The IDA Board of Directors is expected to approve that reauthorization at an upcoming meeting. Any bond offering would also need approval by the Clinton County Legislature.

Email Dan Heath:dheath@pressrepublican.com

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