ITHACA, NY – On Thursday, the Tompkins County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) voted 6-1 in favor of a $640,000 sales tax abatement for the Cargill salt mine.

Cargill had asked for the abatement to help fund a new mine $32 million shaft. Cargill says that without the shaft, it would have to cease operations within a decade.

Critics of the project arose on two fronts: environmentalists who were concerned about the environmental impact, and others who felt that a multi-billion dollar corporation should be on the hook to pay for its own expansion, since it will be profitable for Cargill in the long run.

The Department of Environmental Conservation had issued a declaration of no significance for the project, though some critics felt it was premature.

On the financial front, it was argued that the Cargill salt mine in Lansing is an independent subsidiary of the larger corporation, and can’t draw from the wealth of the larger corporation.

Heather McDaniel, of Tompkins County Area Development, pointed out that Cargill had not asked for assistance in the past, and that this was a one-time request. She also framed the issue as one of job retention, pointing out that the county would be paying approximately  $3200 per job to keep 200 jobs in the county past the next ten years.

Cargill mine manager Shawn Wilczynski said that Cargill would have the most to lose if there was a safety issue, and assured the IDA that they had done their due diligence. Economically, he also pointed out that the project would bring new spending to Tompkins during its construction.

While Legislator Will Burbank proposed tabling the motion in order to have more tine to collect facts, other IDA members felt comfortable voting based on the substantial information already available.

The IDA ultimately voted 6-1 in favor, with Burbank voting against.

Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.