White House ditches Arab-owned site for U.S. jobs speech

Venue got huge subsidies, tax breaks

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The White House has switched the venue in upstate New York for President Obama’s speech Tuesday on manufacturing, ditching a plant owned by the government of Abu Dhabi that has received more than $1 billion in state subsidies.

Mr. Obama will speak about the economy at the State University of New York at Albany, highlighting high-tech jobs at the school’s NanoTech Complex. But last week, the local Democratic congressman and others announced that Mr. Obama would speak at GlobalFoundries in Malta, N.Y., a manufacturer of computer chips that employs about 1,300 workers.

White House officials said the site change was made over the weekend for “logistical reasons” and that GlobalFoundries’ officials still would attend the event.

But there are other factors that could have led administration officials to worry that it was a poor backdrop for Mr. Obama, who is emphasizing campaign themes of “built in America” and getting the wealthy to pay their fair share in taxes.

GlobalFoundries is owned by Advanced Technology Investment Co., a subsidiary of Mubadala Development Co., which is owned by the Abu Dhabi government. The oil-rich Arab monarchy took total control of GlobalFoundries in March.

The company broke ground in July 2009 with the help of at least $400 million of Build America Bonds, municipal bonds created under the federal government’s stimulus plan in 2009. New York state will make payments on the bonds for 15 years, and the program allows the state to receive federal subsidy payments covering up to 35 percent of the interest paid to investors.

The Times-Union of Albany has documented more than $1.3 billion in state government subsidies to the firm, including $700 million in tax breaks and $665 million in cash.

In the past year, the company has lobbied for sales-tax exemptions of $405 million, a portion of which was granted by the Saratoga County Industrial Development Authority (IDA). The exemptions and the company’s challenging of its property-tax assessment prompted one IDA member to complain that the company didn’t care about the community.

“They’re going to take all they can get,” said Charles Hanehan, a Saratoga town councilman and IDA board member, in an interview. “I’m skeptical. It bothers me even more that they’re not an American company. A big part of our town budget is the sales tax, and we could have used that money.”

Asked whether he would attend the president’s speech Tuesday, Mr. Hanehan replied, “I wouldn’t walk across the street to see him.”

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