News Column

Officials defend use of public money for Schott

August 28, 2014

By Joe Sylvester, The Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

Aug. 28--Duryea Mayor Keith Moss says Schott North America Inc. applied to the borough for a share of gaming money to develop a new type of porous glass "because they couldn't do it all themselves."

The company asked for $500,000, but the state Commonwealth Financing Authority, which decides which projects to fund in each county with the casino revenue, approved just $100,000 for Duryea in 2012.

While readers have questioned the use of government money to fund a private corporation, local and state officials defend the practice, saying it ensures jobs, tax revenue and economic development.

Moss said the borough council agreed to seek the money for Schott because it would help keep jobs and tax revenue in the borough.

"They came to Duryea Borough and asked Duryea Borough if they could get some kind of help because they couldn't do it all themselves," Moss said. "They were looking for help from Duryea because they employ people from Duryea."

The international company developed and is manufacturing its new CoralPorŪ porous glass, a high-performance glass used in the medical, aerospace, defense, and oil and gas industries, at its research and manufacturing site on York Avenue in Duryea. The company came up with about $1 million of its own money to develop the new product, officials said at a program on Tuesday.

Jim Stein, Schott vice president of government affairs, said the new product resulted in just a few new employees but it also ensured protection of the 230 who work in research and development and manufacturing in Duryea.

Stein said the company had to delay some investments and "move things around" because the grant was less than the company sought. He said Schott is in a global competition with companies subsidized by sovereign nations.

"We like to think the money we take from the public is returned in tax revenue and jobs," Stein said.

The company executive said state Rep. Mike Carroll, D-Avoca, and state Sen. John Blake, D-Archbald, who were honored at the company's presentation, made company officials aware of the process of obtaining funding and shepherded them through it.

"This came about when I met Senator Blake and Representative Carroll when President Obama came to the plant in 2008," Stein said. "That started that sort of dialogue."

Carroll, addressing another common complaint, estimated that if gaming money were distributed simply to reduce property taxes, the shares would be less than $50 per household in Luzerne County. He said officials who suggested that casino revenue could be used to reduce property taxes were overselling the concept.

"The goal here is to advance economic development and advance community projects that are very difficult for local government to complete," Carroll said.

"As a result of the grant that was provided, there will be job growth and revenue growth for the commonwealth," Blake said.

He added that a proprietary technology developed by Schott in Duryea will result in sales growth far in excess of the $100,000.

"Third, Schott is a global, multi-national corporation that could do business anywhere in the world, and it chooses to do it in Duryea," Blake said.


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Source: Times Leader (Wilkes-Barre, PA)

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