Economic Development

TJX Reiterates Commitment to Hiring Local Contractors

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – TJX Companies Inc. remains committed to using local contractors for construction of its $160 million HomeGoods regional distribution center in Lordstown, a company spokesman said Wednesday afternoon. 

The emailed statement from Andrew Mastrangelo, manager of media relations for the Massachusetts-based retailer, comes following concerns expressed over the past several days by representatives of the local building trades.

In response to those concerns, the Trumbull County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution “urging TJX to help give back to the community of Trumbull County by utilizing local workers” at its weekly meeting Wednesday. 

“From the beginning of this highly specialized project, we have been committed to the use of local contractors for the majority of the work and that has not changed,” Mastrangelo said. 

TJX’s intent to employ local construction workers was affirmed Wednesday afternoon by Sarah Boyarko, chief operating officer of the Youngstown/Warren Regional chamber. Boyarko has worked with TJX on the Lordstown project for more than three years.  

“From the very beginning, we’ve encouraged the use of local contractors and service providers,” she said. “That message has been well received by the company and they continue to verbalize that to the chamber.”  

TJX has signed a notice to proceed with a general contractor, Catamount Constructors Inc. – which has offices in Atlanta, Denver and San Antonio – and has received inquiries from potential northeastern Ohio subcontractors.  

“As we enter the bidding process for the construction phase of our distribution center, we strongly encourage local contractors to submit bids for the considerable amount of on-site work that lies ahead,” Mastrangelo said in the email. “We remain excited about this project and expect this facility to be mutually beneficial to the community, region and to HomeGoods for many years to come.”

The chamber has provided “a list of resources from our membership” to TJX, Boyarko said. She has also been in contact with representatives from Catamount and will provide that information to the general contractor as well. 

Site preparation work began in April at the nearly 300-acre site in Lordstown where TJX is building a 1.2-million-square-foot distribution center. Independence Excavating Inc. of Independence is performing the work, but other details regarding the project have been scarce. 

The Trumbull commissioners, who earlier this year approved a 10-year, 75% tax abatement for the project, passed their resolution Wednesday after representatives of the building trades and local contractors last week expressed concerns that they might be left out if TJX chooses a general contractor that prefers to use outside labor. 

Representatives of the trades also were on hand for Wednesday’s meeting to support the commissioners for approving the resolution and restate their concerns about local construction workers potentially being left out of job opportunities. 

“The biggest fear that I have with no prevailing wage language and no certified payrolls is that the people of Lordstown and other communities are losing out on that income tax,” said Bob Gerst, business agent for Cement Masons Local 526, Area 179. Some companies pay these workers as subcontractors rather than employees and may evade paying taxes by changing names and moving back to where they came from. 

Commissioners expressed their preference for the company to hire local workers for construction when they met with company officials about the tax abatement, said Commissioner Dan Polivka. Since then, he has attempted to contact the company but not received a response yet. 

“That’s kind of disturbing to me,” he said.  

Commissioner Mauro Cantalamessa acknowledged that several communities vie for projects like these.

“We need to make Trumbull County attractive and a place where companies like TJX want to call home,” he said. “Tax incentives are one of those vehicles that we use to do that.”     

Commissioners said they will ask the Ohio Attorney General’s office to provide a formal opinion regarding whether they can insert language in future incentive agreements requiring the recipients to hire local workers for construction or to pay prevailing wage on a project. 

A 2014 opinion by the county prosecutor states the office “was unable to find any authority that gives guidance” whether the board has the authority to condition” the recipient of a tax abatement to pay certain wages.   

“It doesn’t say you can or can’t,” Cantalamessa said. 

The commissioners will also look into what other communities are doing to get a better idea of what Trumbull County can do, said Commissioner Frank Fuda. Building trades representatives said other Ohio counties have legislation or such language in incentive agreements. 

“We need to look at other counties and see what legislation they have, and maybe make ours similar to what they have,” he said.

File photo: Site work is underway at the TJX distribution center in June 2019.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.