Critics pummel N.Y. economic development program

August 18 09:01 2015

The criticism grew quickly as figures were released: The Start-Up NY program cost taxpayers $53 million in ads, and the program created 76 jobs. The initiative, heavily promoted in TV commercials, creates tax-free zones for 10 years for businesses that locate on or near New York college campuses, focused mainly on upstate New York because 3 of 4 new jobs in the state since 2009 were in New York City. More than six dozen campuses statewide are part of the program.20130710_Gov_Cuomo_Cornell_sw

Republicans and existing businesses vilified the program created by Gov. Andrew Cuomo as a giveaway to companies in their infancy. But supporters said the effort needs time to mature and will take years before its results can be gauged. It didn’t start taking applications until January 2014.

The program needs fixes to make it more attractive to employers, critics contend, and the effort is being done at the expense of current companies struggling with among the highest taxes in the nation. Start-Up NY, an acronym that stands for SUNY Tax-free Areas to Revitalize and Transform Upstate New York, has 128 companies enrolled that have estimated they will create 3,600 jobs over five years by investing $180 million, a review of state records by Gannett’s Albany Bureau found. In exchange, they won’t have to pay any income or business taxes for 10 years, and employees are credited back their state income taxes when they file their tax returns each year if they make less than $200,000.

Nearly half of the jobs proposed are at the University of Buffalo with about 53 companies expecting to have their operations there, the records showed. Leslie Whatley, the program’s executive vice president, said the program promotes vacant space and collaboration with upstate colleges.