“Project Mars” is not landing in the historic village of Montgomery, New York. The Target corporation announced on October 15, 2002 that it is abandoning plans for a distribution center that spent most of its life as a top secret project. A colossal 1.6 million square foot Target distribution center is not going to be built in Montgomery, much to the delight of the citizens group Stop Target In Montgomery. As Newsflash reported on August 8, 2002, Target had been working for months under a secrecy agreement with town officials, code named “Project Mars” to land the distribution center in the “Empire Zone” in Montgomery, which would have allowed the world’s 4th. largest retailer — based on market capitalization — to reap a windfall in corporate welfare provided by the taxpayers of New York state. Officals were working overtime to arrange for a candy store of tax breaks and write offs for Target. “Target may dangle a few goodies under our noses,” the citizens group wrote, “but under the Empire Zone program, Target will take from us far more than it gives.” A Qualified Empire Zone Enterprise (QEZE) can receive a 10 year exemption from state sales tax on purchases of goods and services, such as utilities; a refundable credit against business or income tax equal to a percentage of real property taxes paid in the Empire Zone; a credit against business or income tax equal to a percentage of tax attributable to the enterprise; a wage tax credit up to 5 years for hiring full-time workers in “new” jobs; investment tax and employment incentive credits; a 25% tax credit against personal or corporate income; real estate tax abatements, etc. The Orange County Partnership, which had been trying to land Project Mars, told the Times Herald-Record newspaper that its reasons for dumping Montgomery included “concerns over the time and expense that would be needed for infrastructure improvements.” The project had been vigorously opposed by local residents, who organized a petition, turned out at meetings, created a website, and promised a protracted battle if Target persisted. “I can’t begin to tell you how relieved I am,” Julia Heavey, an activist in the group, told the press. Heavey noted that Target did not mention citizen opposition among their reasons for pulling the plug, but citizens know their organizing made a big difference in this victory. Orange county officials are still trying to find another site for Target, this time reportedly in nearby Chester, New York, where the company has options on two sites. Target’s withdrawal from Montgomery creates something of a political problem for local towns, because the county recently went through a wrenching negotiation to move 40 acres of “Empire Zone” land into Montgomery just to beenfit Target, and now all those millions of dollars in corporate welfare will have to be shifted to Chester. By this point in time, no one would blame local officials for throwing up their hands and abandoning their efforts to woo what has literally turned into a “Moving Target.”
This is the second recent victory against Target by local citizens. Residents in Bedford, New Hampshire also pushed a Target off a proposed site in their community. Search that story on the Newsflash page by “Bedford”, and go to stoptargetinmontgomery.com for more background on the aborted mission of Project Mars.