When you add it all up, the Avant, and to much lesser lesser degree, Waterfront Place, got built with the help of about $47 million in state grants and tax breaks.
One can make an argument about the value of bringing the abandoned Dulski Bulding back to life as Avant. The same argument can -- and will -- be made about the Statler Towers now that it has been purchased by a group with plans for a $100 million renovation.
Here's the "but."
Economic development efforts by government ought to be first and foremost about creating jobs, and not just any old job. They ought to be about (1) creating jobs that pay a living wage that you can support a family on for lesser skilled and educated people and (2) creating good paying jobs, i.e., for the better skilled and educated, that promote the growth of a middle class.
But neither Avant nor Waterfront Place does that -- at least not in a cost-efficient way.
According to the applications each project filed with Empire State Development Corp.:
-- Waterfront Place will create four permanent jobs. ESD has calculated the developer's tax savings under the Empire Zone program at $1.9 million, which works out to $475,000 per job. Add the $5.3 million in property tax abatements that I calculated for my story that ran Sunday and you're talking $1.8 million per job.
-- Avant will create 42 permanent jobs, primarily at the hotel. (Actual employment at the hotel is 112, although many of those jobs are part-time. No one from the hotel called me back Monday to provide details). The project has received $20 million in state grants and tax breaks, which works out to about $475,000 per job. There's another $20 million the project will achieve in property tax savings. Add it all up and you're talking about $950,000 per job.
Keep in mind that the benchmark used by the federal government for some of its major economic development programs is $35,000 per job.
Now I realize that no one based the decisions to publicly assist Avant and Waterfront Place on the cost per job. Nor should it be the only consideration.
Now there are other benefits to the two developments. But I go back to my original point.
At the end of the day, economic development in the third-poorest city in the nation, in one of the most economically sluggish regions in the nation, needs to be first and foremost about helping companies provide people with jobs on which they can support a family.
And in this town, project after project fails to meet that standard. In fact, in some instances, that standard isn't even part of the mix.