After nearly 33 years as a dentist, Dr. Todd E. Shatkin believes in the value of dental education, and the need for more dentists, especially in places like Erie County.
That is why he started a dental residency program four years ago, in partnership with New York University. And it is why he has proposed starting a new graduate dental school that would operate as part of Daemen University, to train as many as 120 new students each year in Amherst through a three-year program.
“This is kind of my passion, educating future dentists of America,” said Shatkin, whose son graduates this month from Tufts University’s dental school.
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But his $7.85 million project to create his Shatkin College of Dentistry alongside his existing Amherst businesses – a dental practice, dental training and dental implant manufacturing – is drawing criticism over the unusual structure of the relationship with Daemen, and his bid for nearly $400,000 in sales tax breaks from the Amherst Industrial Development Agency.
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That’s because instead of donating significant money to Daemen – and getting naming rights so the university can construct and launch a school – Shatkin will invest directly in the buildings and equipment, which he will own or control. Effectively, he is acting as a real estate developer and landlord for Daemen, which will rent space from the dentist for 20 years for the new school and a separate institute focused on helping patients with mobility challenges.
“He stands to recoup his investment over time, as the school goes on and the lease payments come in,” said Daemen President Gary A. Olson. “It’s not a donation. It’s a business arrangement.”
Amherst dentist Dr. Todd Shatkin of Shatkin Dental Health is partnering with the university to construct the Shatkin College of Dentistry in part of the Phillips Brothers Supply building on Kensington Avenue, close to Shatkin’s Amherst dental facilities and the town’s growing “Medical Spine” along I-290.
The structure of the deal is at the crux of the issue. The project isn’t eligible for tax breaks under the countywide IDA policy and would need an exception from the Amherst IDA to get them. Other IDA board members are questioning the need for the project – which is outside of their role as board members – and whether the tax breaks are essential.
Had the project been structured around a donation, Daemen would not have needed to go to the IDA for tax breaks and would only have required town approval.
Shatkin will use vacant space in a building he owns at 2500 Kensington Ave. – which was redeveloped with the help of $992,000 in IDA tax breaks five years ago – and will also lease the nearby Philipps Brothers Supply Co.