CANTON — A Massena businessman said he believes converting the former General Motors plant into a gambling casino is St. Lawrence County’s ticket to economic prosperity because it would create desperately needed jobs and bring in revenue from outside the area.
During the public comment session of Monday’s county Legislature meeting, Thomas G. Gramuglia told county officials they should sit down with the area’s Mohawk tribal leaders and work out a deal that would benefit the Native Americans as well as the rest of the county.
He proposed that Mohawks take over the vacant GM plant and then relicense it to an independent company that would operate a casino.
“This whole county could pull itself out of its boot straps,” Mr. Gramuglia said. “Somebody needs to take the bull by the horns.”
He said another casino is the only viable option for economic development.
“God is not going to bring us Toyota,” Mr. Gramuglia told legislators. “I’ve seen this county go downhill. If we don’t change the situation, this county is headed down the tubes.”
Moving quickly is important, Mr. Gramuglia said, because Cornwall, Ontario, the Canadian city across the border from Massena, is expected to open a casino within the next four years. He predicted that competition from a Cornwall casino could have a devastating impact on the Akwesasne Mohawk Casino, which depends heavily on Canadian customers.
As a result, money from the gaming compact agreement for the county and municipalities will dry up, he predicted.
Developing a casino at the GM site on the St. Lawrence River could lead to other tourist-related projects near the site, such as a shopping center and a marina, he said. He estimated a new casino could create 1,800 jobs, helping to reduce the high percentage of county residents who collect welfare.
Mr. Gramuglia also said the proposed land claims settlement negotiated between Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the Mohawks is unfavorable for St. Lawrence County and shouldn’t be adopted.
“I think it’s very detrimental to accept this agreement. Our governor thinks he’s Caesar,” he said.