By Brian Sampson, President Associated Builders & Contractors Empire
To read the editorial as it appeared in the Buffalo News, click here
I was extremely encouraged by news of the construction of a SolarCity plant
in Buffalo, where this large, publicly traded company will build solar panels.
This excitement came not only as the executive director of an association
representing contractors, but also as a Western New Yorker. There was a feeling
that this good news was long overdue for the Queen City.
For those unfamiliar with the project, the construction of this facility is
being financed entirely through the state of New York. New York will own the
facility and all equipment within it, with SolarCity promising to provide 3,000
employees to utilize it. That is where the good news ends.
As frequently happens when dealing with projects involving the government,
the devil is in the details. As Associated Builders and Contractors and our
members began inquiring as to how to get work on this massive $750 million
dollar-plus project, we ran into a brick wall.
The more research we did on this issue for our members, the more frustrated
we became. In fact, it came to a point where our staff was actually submitting
Freedom of Information Act requests to find out more information on the
bidding, who was getting the work that was being done, etc. These requests for
information have gone unanswered.
To further the aggravation, we can’t find out whether this construction will
utilize a project labor agreement, or PLA. For those unfamiliar with PLAs,
these agreements typically restrict competition, increase costs, create delays,
discriminate against nonunion employees and place merit shop contractors at a
significant competitive disadvantage. Those details are not being released to
What Associated Builders and Contractors wants from this project is what it
wants from every public project: A fair and open process where the most
responsible, qualified, lowest bidder gets the work. Since this project is
utilizing over $750 million of taxpayer money, residents of Buffalo and all of
New York should want the same. These were hard-earned dollars that should be
spent wisely and efficiently. I can’t answer if that is or is not happening
right now because of the secrecy surrounding this project.
Our members are hardworking women and men who simply want the same shot at
construction projects as everyone else. In Western New York we have a number of
civic-minded members who constantly give back to their community and who
provide hundreds of employees with good wages and benefits. All these local
companies want is a chance. A chance they are being denied by government
Let’s hope for some transparency on this construction before the facility is
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