UPDATE: It's now clear a lot of promises were made on both sides: Pioneer promised to build a new facility and create jobs. Pioneer was promised about $1.3 million in grant money to help with that project, but since the project wasn't completed, Pioneer never received any of the money.
When Pioneer Credit Recovery decided to expand into Batavia in 2004, federal, state and county officials rolled out the red carpet -- or should we say the gold carpet -- for a company characterized as a great WNY job-growth story.
The praise for Pioneer was so intense, you'd think Joseph Ellicott was on the cusp of a Second Coming.
"By investing and growing in Western New York, Sallie Mae and Pioneer are creating good new jobs in our area - just the kind of shot in the arm our region needs to keep growing our economy," said then-Congressman Thomas M. Reynolds according to a Pioneer press release from 2004. "This is great news not only for Batavia and Genesee County, but for the entire community. It just the kind of success we need to ensure our continued economic recovery."
Pioneer supposedly committed to a $7.3 expansion project in Batavia (according to a Batavia Daily News story from Sept. 17, 2004 -- the Pioneer press release pegged the cost at $3.8 million), which included hiring up to 450 people locally and building a new facility in the Gateway II project on Route 98.
Five years later, Pioneer is shutting its doors in Batavia, having never left it's "temporary" facility on Mill Street and scant evidence that it ever employed 450 people at one time. (We are basing the news of Pioneer's closure (You read it here first) on the word of multiple current employees who sat in a meeting today to hear the stunning news, but we have no official response from Pioneer executives after several attempts to obtain a comment).
One wonders what happened to the $1.3 million in taxpayer subsidies the company received to help expand into Genesee County (plus another $350,000 loan to help improve its "temporary" Mill Street facility according to a Batavia Daily News story from May 11, 2006).
When Pioneer's expansion was announced, then-Gov. George Pataki held a press conference at City Centre (considering the location, not an auspicious beginning) to hail the job-growth opportunity.
"Pioneer Credit Recovery is one of Western New York's largest and fastest growing employers, and the new facility being planned for Batavia will further expand the company's growing presence and provide hundreds of good-paying job opportunities for hardworking families in the region," Gov. Pataki said. "The company's decision to open a third facility in Western New York is a clear example that our pro-growth, pro-job policies are succeeding in attracting new business investments and jobs for New Yorkers.
In a Feb. 19, 2005 story, Roger Muehlig wrote for the Daily about Pioneer's "historic" job growth:
Pioneer Credit Recovery's expansion into Genesee County looms as the biggest business development for the county in decades.
The company has already created about 100 jobs at its temporary location on Mill Street in the city of Batavia and intends to generate up to 350 more at a new facility eyed for a planned industrial park off Route 98 north of the city.
Those kind of new job numbers haven't been seen for quite some time.
"You have to go back to the '30s and '40s when some of the industrial businesses were thriving," said Steven Hyde, chief executive officer of the county Economic Development Center.
The Daily was equally enthusiastic about Pioneer when the Arcade-based company hired Jarid Olsowski, Pioneer's 1,100 employee:
Company and area leaders including U.S. Rep. Thomas Reynolds, R-Clarence, gathered Monday to celebrate the company's ongoing and dynamic expansion.
"This growth at Pioneer has really been amazing, but really not surprising, considering the quality work force we have in Western New York," said Chief Executive Officer Joan Ludwick.
Apparently, the dynamic expansion is over and now taxpayers are left to wonder, whatever happened to all the money that was supposed to bring a brand new office building to Batavia with 450 good paying jobs?
You would think, too, that Pioneer (which proclaims on its home page "Proud Past. Unlimited Future."), after benefiting so lavishly from taxpayer largesse, would be a little more forthcoming in discussing its change of plans with the community, but executives remain mum.