By Mark Boshnack Staff Report
The Daily Star
---- — A member of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s cabinet, Matthew J. Driscoll, talked to about 50 people Tuesday at SUNY Oneonta about a program to encourage job creation. START-UP NY, that had been called Tax-Free NY, was signed into law last week. The meeting was held at Hunt Union.
The plan is designed to stimulate upstate economies, Driscoll said, and allows every SUNY community college and four-year college or university to establish a tax-free community using:
• Vacant land on the SUNY campus (for every campus outside of New York City);
• Vacant space in buildings on the SUNY campus (for every campus outside of NYC);
• Any business incubator with a bona fide affiliation to the campus, university or college; and
• Up to 200,000 square feet within one mile of a campus (for every campus north or west of Westchester County), or further with approval from Empire State Development, which has final approval on all businesses that participate
Participating companies in START-UP NY will not pay any taxes (business/corporate taxes, sales taxes and property taxes) for 10 years. Employees in participating companies will pay no income taxes for the first five years. For the second five years, employees will pay no taxes on income up to $200,000 of wages for individuals, $250,000 for a head of household, and $300,000 for taxpayers filing a joint return. The number of net new jobs eligible for personal income tax benefits will not exceed 10,000 new jobs per year.
It arose from the recognition that job growth is taking place where businesses have a partnership with colleges and universities, Driscoll said. It requires college presidents to work with others to attract businesses, either as start-ups or from other states. They will then apply to Empire State Development for inclusion in START-UP. If non-university properties are involved, he suggested that local government can work with the college on development of a payment in lieu of taxes program.
There has been some criticism of the plan. Oneonta Common Council Member Michael Lynch of the Fourth Ward was contacted for comment after the meeting.
“I think it’s laughable anyone would think this is going to work,” Lynch said. “These types of schemes have been tried over and over again. They are heavy on tax giveaways and light on job creation.”
In response to several questions at the meeting, Driscoll said it will not compete with local businesses already in place.
Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, who was in the audience, said he voted for the program because it is “a bold innovation” targeted at upstate. Empire State Development will not approve applications to participate from a competing business because the target is new businesses that probably wouldn’t exist without the program, he said. For those already in existence, “we should be looking to help existing business on broad-based approaches on tax relief,” he said.
College President Nancy Kleniewski said “we’re very excited about this opportunity.” As a public institution, part of the State University College at Oneonta’s mission is to help the community, she said. “This is a great tool” to keep graduates here and have them contribute to the upstate economy. She will be working with local officials to generate ideas. While a lot of the responsibility will fall on her shoulders, she will be working with a team. Some of the possibilities for start-ups she mentioned at the meeting include businesses that focus on video production, audio recording environmental management and fashion design and health care. They are all designed to take advantage of programs at the college.
One of those thinking along those lines was Sven Anderson, a SUNY Oneonta associate professor of computer art. Speaking after the meeting, he said he will be applying to start a digital production facility.
“We have phenomenal graduates,” but most leave the state to pursue their careers, he said. This type of financial assistance could help make such a project a success, he said.
“It would be tremendous gain” for all those involved, he said.