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Seneca Offers Land, Tax Advantages, Expertise to Verizon

ALLEGANY TERRITORY, Salamanca, NY – The Seneca Nation of Indians has offered Verizon an alternative to locating a new data center in tax-intensive western New York: locating it on business-friendly, property tax-free Seneca land.

Seneca President Robert Odawi Porter wrote to Ivan G. Seidenberg, chairman and CEO of Verizon, on March 18 urging him to consider the many advantages of Seneca Nation land for future Verizon development.

Verizon recently decided not to build a $4 billion data center in Somerset, Niagara County, New York.

“The Seneca Nation has followed Verizon’s plans to invest in Niagara County with great interest. As a significant economic contributor to the Western New York region, we share an interest in growing the Western New York economy. As you can imagine, this decision is obviously a tremendous blow to Western New York. Unfortunately, hard decisions such as this one are often economically necessary in the face of difficult, business unfriendly New York State and county political and governmental environments,” Porter wrote.

Porter told Seidenberg that the Seneca Nation doesn’t suffer from the same “systemic impediments” as New York’s local and county governments and invited him to visit Seneca territory to see for himself. The nation, Porter said, supports business development on its territories and throughout Western New York.

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“However, unlike Somerset (and other western New York locations), the Seneca Nation has taken significant steps to encourage efficient and effective business development and growth within our territories,” he wrote. “Moreover, development on Indian lands offers unique competitive advantages that are not available anywhere else outside of Indian Country.”

Businesses that develop facilities on sovereign Indian land enjoy a number of competitive advantages, Porter said, listing a number of them:

  • The Seneca Nation has civil regulatory authority over its own territory, meaning development on Seneca lands would not be subject to New York and county regulatory regimes so that projects can move forward more quickly than on non-Indian land.
  • Seneca has “streamlined processes” over the tens of thousands of acres of its territory in Western New York. As a result, companies who locate businesses on Seneca land won’t face “nuisance litigation from neighboring landowners as Verizon did, Porter said.
  • Businesses that locate on Indian land also have certain tax advantages, including in Seneca’s case, no property taxes. “As a sovereign nation, we control our own tax regimes. Culturally, we do not believe in imposing business-choking taxes on our people and development partners. As a result, your facility would not be subject to property taxes on our lands,” Port told the Verizon CEO. The IRS also allows third-party businesses on Indian land to use a shorter depreciation recovery period of approximately 40 percent for most non-residential depreciable property used in development.

Locating on Seneca territory also provides non Indian business “access to sophisticated business partners,” Porter said. As the fifth-largest employer in Western New York and with substantial financial resources, the nation has “deep knowledge of the needs of successful businesses,” Porter said, pointing to Seneca Holding, the nation’s investment and holding company One of the holding company’s subsidiaries is Seneca Telecommunications, which has extensive experience in the IT and telecommunications industries, including data centers, which might prove valuable to Verizon, he said.

“We are committed to furthering economic development and job creation within our territories and throughout Western New York. The Seneca Nation of Indians is committed to continuing our role as a significant catalyst for economic growth in the region,” Porter concluded.