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Firms line up for Mass. tax breaks

They promise construction, jobs in return

More than a dozen companies have asked the state to give them millions of dollars in tax breaks in exchange for new construction projects and other investments, and creating some 1,500 jobs in Massachusetts.

The Commonwealth’s Economic Assistance Coordinating Council will meet Wednesday to vote on the tax breaks for the 15 companies. Though officials declined to disclose how much state aid has been requested, the companies could also receive a combined $22.4 million in related property tax cuts from the communities where they are located. In exchange, the companies said they are investing nearly $200 million in improvements at their sites, and pledged to create 1,417 jobs in Massachusetts.

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The largest proposal is from Granite Telecommunications LLC, which already employs about 1,000 workers in its hometown. The company is renovating buildings at its headquarters in Quincy and said it will hire an additional 765 employees, in exchange for reductions in state and local taxes.

Granite Telecommunications is a privately held company with annual revenues of more than $900 million. The company manages the telephone and data communication networks of major companies such as Walmart Stores Inc. and CVS Caremark Corp.

Granite has invested $9 million of its own money in overhauling its headquarters building and renovating a second building the company purchased earlier this year. Granite and the City of Quincy want the state to approve a tax increment financing plan that would save the company $367,320 in local property taxes over 15 years, plus whatever additional state tax breaks the council awards.

“Granite started as a home-grown Quincy company with about 15 employees just about 10, 12 years ago, and has since grown into a national player with 1,000 employees,” said Chris Walker, spokesman for Mayor Thomas Koch of Quincy. “These are the kinds of jobs that we want to keep and create.”

And in Fitchburg, Great Wolf Resorts LLC is planning to spend $66 million to convert a Holiday Inn hotel, water park, and convention center into a family vacation resort. A spokeswoman said the facility will begin hiring in March, and expects to employ 250 full-time and 250 part-time workers. The company wants to receive $16.5 million in local property tax reductions, plus undisclosed state tax breaks.

“Even after the tax break, the total tax revenue will still be higher than the previous business,” said Mayor Lisa Wong. “It’s definitely a win-win for the city,” said Wong, who predicted that the new facility would attract visitors from all over New England.

Based in Wisconsin, Great Wolf Resorts operates indoor water parks throughout the United States.

Michael Hunter, executive director of the Massachusetts Office of Business Development, called the tax incentives “a catalyst for job growth and economic development.” He also noted the state program for awarding tax breaks underwent major reforms in 2010, after The Boston Globe reported that many companies that received benefits did not follow through on their promises to create jobs. The program also gave tax cuts to companies that offered to create only one or two new jobs.

Under the state’s new rules, tax cuts and credits are more carefully targeted to applicants that will create a substantial number of jobs in Massachusetts.

“We reformed this program significantly,” said Hunter, “in order to make sure that job creation was a critical component.”

Hiawatha Bray can be reached at
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