BATAVIA, N.Y. - Steve Hyde is the guy to go to when businesses are looking for government help or tax breaks to come to town, or expand in Genesee County.
And in that position Hyde is well paid. Make that very well paid.
Just how much does he make??
Over the past five years, Hyde has averaged $215,000 a year.
That is by far more than the head of any other Industrial Development Agency in the state. By far.
Hyde's base salary alone would make him one of the top paid in the state, but it's the bonuses that the IDA's Board of Directors has authorized for him that's really raised his pay and raised eyebrows.
* In 2009 Hyde made $213,000, which included a bonus of $60,000.
* In 2010 he made $166,000 with no bonus.
* In 2011 he made $238,000 thanks to a $72,000 bonus.
* In 2012 he made $240,000 with a bonus of $70 thousand.
Now to put that in perspective, Governor Cuomo makes $179,000 a year and Vice President Biden makes $232,000 a year. So last year, Steve Hyde made more than both of them.
We sat down with the chairman of the IDA's board of directors, Charlie Cook to ask about all of this.
Scott Brown: "What did you think was the justification for giving out bonuses to the head of the IDA?
Charlie Cook: "Scott the members of the IDA board are from the private sector and in industry incentive compensation is pretty widely used. We felt comfortable with that approach but that said, we heard from the legislature and some of their constituents were uncomfortable with that approach to compensation so that's why we made the decision to eliminate it."
So because Hyde will no longer receive bonuses, the board decided to increase his base pay.
This year, he was given about a 20% raise and now makes $206,000again by far the most of the head of any IDA in the state.
Scott Brown: "You've ended the bonuses for Mr. Hyde, but you've given him a $35,000 pay increase."
Charlie Cook: "Yes well, getting back to the point about incentive comp, in the private sector typically, if someone's under an incentive comp program, generally their rate of pay is below market or at least at the low end of the scale, and that was certainly the case here and once we eliminated the incentive comp..."
Scott Brown: "Well let me interrupt you if I can there because his salary was $160,000 which was one of the highest in the state, so he wasn't below market at all he was top of the market."
Charlie Cook: "Well you have to compare it to what the market is. If you're comparing it to other IDAs that's one thing."
Scott Brown: "Well isn't that a fair comparison?"
Charlie Cook: "Not really, I don't think so and the board as a whole doesn't think so. We really feel that his compensation should be based on what he could command if he could go to work for an economic development agency of comparable size and accomplishment, not just in New York state but nationwide."
Scott Brown: "He doesn't work in the private sector. He's part of the New York state retirement system, a public employee, why compare his pay with what people are making in the private sector?"
Charlie Cook: "We feel we need to offer him a competitive rate of salary to those other organizations in order to retain him."
Scott Brown: "Has he ever said 'I'm going to look for work elsewhere because I'm not happy with the pay I've gotten here?'"
Charlie Cook: "He's not that sort of person, he's never said that to me."
Scott Brown: "Let me ask you a question, do you know how much Governor Cuomo makes?"
Charlie Cook: "I believe it's $150 or $160,000 something like that."
Scott Brown: "$179,000. So this year the head of your IDA will be making about $30,000 more than the governor. The governor has a pretty important job in New York state."
Charlie Cook: "He definitely does."
Scott Brown: "Would you say more important than the head of IDA here?"
Charlie Cook: "I guess I really don't have an opinion on that."
So exactly what has Hyde done to earn his big salary?
We did some investigating.
According to figures provided to us by the Authorities Budget Office, which is a state watchdog agency that oversees all authorities,over the last five years, the Genesee County IDA created 723 jobs.
One of the IDA's success stories has been a new yogurt plant that opened last fall. Right now it employs 50 people and is projected to add more jobs in the future. A second yogurt plant has hired 80 employees is supposed to open this summer.
Overall the Authorities Budget Office says Genesee county ranked #20 in the state out of 91 IDAs in job creation since 2008.
Orleans County, which has a similar population of about 40,000 people, create 818 jobs over that same period.
What does Orleans pay the head of its IDA? $63,000. Again, that's compared to Hyde's $206,000.
Dave Kidera is the head of the Authorities Budget Office.
Scott Brown: "The folks in Genesee County say he's done a great job in terms of job creation, is that the case?"
Dave Kidera: "It's one thing to compare number of jobs promised, but when you look at the actual jobs created after a five or six year period, at least in the case of Genesee County those numbers are substantially depressed."
And in part that's because a number of the projects that the IDA has given tax incentives to have not delivered on what they promised: to add jobs, as a matter of fact it's just the opposite.
Scott Brown: "There are more than a handful of companies that have promised to create eight jobs or 12 jobs or 15 jobs and in some cases they wind up losing jobs not creating jobs?"
Charlie Cook: "That's a fact and unfortunately that's a fact nationwide. Having gone through this recession there's things they didn't anticipate and we didn't anticipate."
Now the Genesee County IDA, like all IDAs in the state funds itself through a one percent fee that it charges for every project it does. But the Genesee County IDA also receives money from taxpayers, which help pay the salaries of Steve Hyde and other staff members.
In the current county budget, taxpayers are giving the IDA $215,000this despite the fact that right now the IDA has millions of dollars in fees in the bank that it's built up.
Scott Brown: "The $215,000 or so we've gotten the last few couple of years, it's only 15 one hundreds of one percent of the county budget. It's very small, but it does make an important statement that the county is supportive of what we're doing and the return on their investment is huge."
Scott Brown: "Well you said they're supportive, I know three members of the legislature voted against giving money, county money, to the IDA last year so not everybody everyone's supportive right?"
Charlie Cook: "They've made the same point that you have- when the IDA is making money what is the reason for them subsidizing some of the operation of the EDC? There are going to be years here where we just aren't as active and successful as other years."
Scott Brown: "Do you think that's needed that taxpayers should have to pay (to subsidize the IDA)?"
Dave Kidera: "It's a legitimate question to ask whether the financial assistance provided by the county at the level it is currently provided is still necessary given the other revenue streams and income of the IDA."
And just this month, the Genesee County IDA approved $1.7 million dollars in tax breaks to the developers of a strip mall in the county.
The mall's Lowe's store had closed and the developers wanted a new set of tax breaks to bring a Dick's Sporting Goods store into town.
The board unanimously approved the plan despite the state saying that IDAs, except in special circumstances, were no longer supposed to offer tax incentives to retail projects, like Dick's, because they didn't provide a good bang for the buck for taxpayers.
Steve Hyde was there to recommend that the board approve the project that could create 120 mostly low paying jobs and generate more fees for the IDA.
Ten years ago, Hyde started at the Genesee County IDA making $84,000 a year. Again today he's making $206,000 and the board is in the midst of negotiating a new three year contract with him.
Scott Brown: "He's been getting on average raises of about 15% a year. Nobody gets raises of 15% a year unless you play major league baseball right?"
Charlie Cook: "Each year certainly since I've been on the board, I'm increasingly impressed with his capability and his creativity and so those type of increases to me are reasonable."