Niagara Times has succeeded in winning friends throughout government, politics, the business sector, non-profits, even the mainstream media. So, very little of what happens in this community ends up a total surprise to us.
The truth is, we have known for some time that Lockport had become the leading contender for the proposed Yahoo! data center. We also knew that both Niagara County and Town of Lockport officials were doing their best to keep any announcement under wraps until early next week, when the town would have a legal obligation to reveal that a deal was in the works with the Internet giant.
And, by all accounts, they were doing a helluva job keeping Lockport’s potential selection off the radar—press accounts were talking about Cambria and Pembroke instead. Lockport’s economic development team had even gone so far as to hide references to it in official communications, emails, even phone conversations, calling it “Project Pilgrim.”
Negotiations of this nature are a tricky thing, after all. One misstep, one bad news article, and the whole applecart can end up upended. And what’s at stake for our region is no small thing: 125 jobs, three-quarters of which will pay north of $65,000 per year.
So, if we’re a little perturbed this morning, it’s probably because one local politician, in her desperate flailing about for credit for something that she had nothing—abso-frickin-lutely nothing!—to do with, managed to jeopardize one of the best economic development projects our region has seen in quite some time.
As Buffalo News reporter Tom Prohaska notes in his missive this morning, and Niagara Times has known since a tip from a friend yesterday afternoon, Francine recklessly sent a press release about Yahoo!’s possible siting to the press—while negotiations for the Yahoo! package were entering their critical final stages.
Here’s how Prohaska put it:
“As reporters dug into ‘Project Pilgrim,’ with The News having already obtained a confirmation of the Yahoo! selection from one source who insisted on anonymity, Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte, D-Lewiston, issued a news release Thursday afternoon that Yahoo! was ‘inching closer’ to selecting a site in Niagara County.”
“About 90 minutes later, the town issued its own news release.”
Do you understand how incredibly stupid a move Francine made? How potentially devastating for this project? Yahoo! wants to make sure they’re partnering with people who can be trusted to run a successful business-siting operation. Instead, they may be wondering today if they’re getting into bed with a bunch of, well, yahoos.
Understand, the town didn’t plan to issue its own release. Instead, Francine’s decision to keep pushing the issue (in fact, one source in the news business told us quite bluntly, she is the whole reason the press was digging in the first place) forced town officials to prematurely announce this, because they had no other choice. (Except, well, lie—which is not the brightest strategy in politics. Well, unless you’ve been spending months telling everyone that Cambria would get the Yahoo! facility—and are shameless enough to claim credit when it doesn’t even land in your district. Then, lying is probably your best bet.)
We are very optimistic about the Yahoo! project, because friends inside both town and county government have assured us that this project is very much on track, and Yahoo! is very happy with the level of support and openness that both Lockport and Niagara County have provided. And, certainly, if this moves forward, this is a feather in the caps of people like Lockport’s economic development guru Dave Kinyon, County Economic Development Commissioner Sam Ferraro, and Lockport Legislator/Economic Development Committee Chairman Rick Updegrove.
But if it does come to pass, it will be no thanks to Francine, her big mouth, and her need to take credit for things that she had nothing to do with.
Stay the hell out of Lockport’s affairs, Francine, you reckless fool.