By Gordon Woodworth, Chronicle News Editor
Six months after we first sought information on Aeon Nexus’s $145,000 loan/grant from Empire State Development (ESD) to renovate its 174 Glen Street (former Russell & Wait) building in Glens Falls, the state agency finally provided 63 documents totaling more than 150 pages.
Here’s what we know, based on the documents we received on April 20, and our previous reporting:
• Aeon Nexus’s $145,000 loan was first announced by the state in Oct. 2009, but the loan wasn’t approved until March 3, 2011, according to the 56-page loan agreement between Aeon Nexus and Empire State Development we received as part of our FOIL request.
The loan agreement said that if Aeon Nexus attained and maintained the Full-time Permanent Employment Levels “as stipulated for this Project, the original principal balance…shall be reduced by 20% in each of the five years of the Loan.”
The 20% equals $29,000 per year.
Documents show Aeon Nexus did have its loan balance reduced in February 2012 and February 2013 by 20% each year, a total of $58,000. At those junctures, the loan agreement said Aeon Nexus was required to have at least three “full-time permanent employment at the project location.”
The then “senior business analyst” for Aeon Nexus, wrote in a March 3, 2011 email to ESD’s Linda Dillon that “at the time of submission Aeon Nexus had three employees in New York, Omar [Usmani, now CEO], Meghan [Barkley, Mr. Usmani’s wife and operations director] and myself. Now we have seven including the original three.” “Myself” was Joshua Koons, who no longer works at Aeon Nexus.
By February 2014, February 2015 and February 2016 under the terms of loan forgiveness, Aeon Nexus needed to show Empire State Development that it had 14 full-time employees in Glens Falls to have their loan balance reduced further.
For February 2015 and 2016, Aeon Nexus submitted documents saying it did have 14 full-time employees in Glens Falls. ESD then reduced their loan balance by $29,000 in 2015 and in 2016, totaling another $58,000.
That left $29,000 of the $145,000 loan that Aeon Nexus still owed. Aeon Nexus said it failed to meet the 14-employee target in February 2013 but cited “extenuating circumstances.”
ESD did not give Aeon Nexus a $29,000 credit against the loan obligation for 2013.
In August 2015, though, Ms. Barkley resubmitted paperwork asking to have their third principal reduction request approved. She wrote, “We had contract employees who had not yet finished out their contracts and although they were working for us full-time (as contractors) they could not be counted as full-time employees. Those contracts are now complete and we have the additional full-time positions filled as such by W2 employees.”
In December 2015, Empire State Development’s Ralph Volcy replied, “ESD is unable to approve” the third principal reduction request “because the evidence submitted by Aeon Nexus failed to demonstrate the level of extenuating circumstances that would warrant a review of this Principal Reduction Request out of sequence.
“Given the above, ESD must deny Aeon Nexus’ third Principal Reduction Request. Please note this decision is final and may not be revisited at a later time.”
ESD approved Aeon Nexus’s fourth $29,000 reduction — for 2016 — on July 25, 2016, leaving the $29,000 balance.
On that day Mr. Volcy of ESD also wrote, “Please note that the term of Aeon Nexus’ convertible loan has now expired. The current outstanding balance is due by October 1, 2016.”
In September 2016, Ms. Barkley requested a repayment extension for an additional year “to allow us to demonstrate that we continue to meet our employment goals. Granting us an additional year to meet our employment goals will reduce the burden of not being granted our third principal reduction.”
It’s unclear if the extension was granted, or if Aeon Nexus has repaid the $29,000.
It is also unclear whether ESD seeks to confirm independently the job numbers that Aeon Nexus apparently self-reports.
Our quest for Aeon’s job numbers
The Chronicle has for years sought details on how many people are employed at the Aeon Nexus building — and has received conflicting information.
In 2015, Omar Usmani, who is now the company’s CEO, told us there were nine employees in Glens Falls.
The EDC Warren County website says Aeon Nexus “employs a total of 8 professionals” here.
Late last year, Mr. Usmani told a resident at a Downtown Revitalization Initiative meeting that his company employed nine people in Glens Falls, adding that some of them worked remotely.
In Ms. Barkley’s request for a one-year extension last September, she wrote, “Aeon Nexus currently employs 17 individuals. 14 are located in our project office [in Glens Falls] with the remainder who work remotely. We currently have 3 open positions in NYS, which we are currently seeking to fill. However, based upon our pipeline of over $3MM, that number is likely to increase.
“We have always focused our energy on sustainable growth and continue to build a client base that continues to return to Aeon Nexus for efficient and effective delivery of projects. We have truly enjoyed working with our team at ESD and hope that you will consider our request.”
We contacted both Mr. Usmani and Ms. Barkley via email for comment. Neither responded by press time.
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