NORWICH – If approved to build its $2.2 billion power line, New York Regional Interconnect announced Tuesday it will set aside at least 10 construction-related contracts for businesses owned by service-disabled veterans.
NYRI struck the agreement with The National Disabled Veterans Business Council (NDVBC), a self-proclaimed advocacy group chartered 18-months ago in Washington, D.C.
“We at NYRI feel privileged to join with our country’s veterans through the National Disabled Veterans Business Council, so we can give something concrete back to our troops who have served all of us so selflessly,” said NYRI president Chris Thompson.
Some power line opponents, however, question NYRI’s motives for aligning with the disabled veterans group, calling it a public relations ploy aimed at deflecting attention away from the controversy surrounding its project.
“What an incredibly slimy move on NYRI’s part. They are exploiting disabled vets to help gain support of its unwanted project,” said Dave Hollis, who lives near the line’s route in Hubbardsville. “This is a totally Machiavellian move by NYRI and should be seen for what it is – a shameful attempt to portray opponents of their project as anti-disabled veterans.”
Thompson argues the power line developer only hopes to be an example of how the private sector can, and should, reach out to the nation’s veterans.
“This is just the first stepping stone,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll get others to follow our lead.”
There is one registered business owned by a disabled veteran in Chenango County, according to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs records. In the seven counties affected by NYRI’s route combined, there are a total of 11.
According to NDVBC Chairman Joseph A. Franklin, the organization will recruit federally-registered businesses from New York and surrounding states to bid on NYRI sub-contracts for clean-up, site security, apprenticeships, and other ancillary tasks required during the power line’s construction. Union construction workers would build the line.
Franklin estimates there are around 260-disabled veteran-owned businesses statewide, and another 1,200 non-disabled veteran-owned.