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Saturday 10 December 2022
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Start-Up NY Slow to Start in Central New York

business plan on wallWhen it was first announced two years ago, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signature economic development plan was touted as a solution for the economic troubles faced by Upstate New York. Called Start-Up NY, the $323 million program was designed to provide generous tax breaks to companies that pledge to create jobs and invest in the region, serving as a potential draw for new businesses. However, a year into the program, most of the benefits awarded so far have gone to businesses in Western New York and Downstate, leaving Central New York lagging behind.

Currently, Start-Up NY has approved 93 companies for the program, who have committed to creating more than 2,800 jobs and invest $173 million in the area. However, many of these businesses seem focused in Buffalo, home to 38 participating businesses, and the New York City-Long Island area, where 28 of the companies are located. In contrast, only three of the approved businesses are found in Central New York, meaning that more than 70% of all Start-Up NY companies are found in Western New York and Downstate.

The news isn’t all bad: after all, the existing Syracuse Start-Up firms have promised to create 94 jobs and invest more than $8 million in the area. But this number of new job jobs represents only 3% of the statewide total, and drawing further attention to an already-controversial topic. In the past, critics have argued that the program gives its companies an unfair advantage over their competitors in regard to their tax burden and their ability to draw talent, as employees of Start-Up NY businesses are not required to pay state and local income taxes for five years. Cuomo’s opponent in the 2014 election, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, attacked the program repeatedly during his campaign. In response, the state has argued that there are safeguards in place to protect existing businesses.

However, the regional disparity might simply be due to more effective and aggressive promotion in other areas. Start-Up NY requires colleges and universities to sponsor companies, with the intention of forming close bonds between state schools and employers. But while Syracuse University has reportedly recently submitted a proposal, and Cornell University has sponsored two companies, school officials have pointed out that different institutions have different approaches to recruiting, and also different capabilities. Cornell, for example, has reportedly sought companies that match its status as a well-known research university. Meanwhile, representatives from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF), the only Onondaga County school currently working with an approved Start-Up company, say that the university was originally limited by their specific focus and lack of on-campus space. Participating companies must be located in designated zones tied to the colleges that sponsor them.

Fortunately, Central New York could see further involvement in Start-Up NY in the coming months: ESF reports that it is currently working on a few deals, and at least one Syracuse-area company, Film House, has expressed significant interest in the program. Upstate Medical Center is reportedly also in talks with a potential corporate partner, but the organization has to be careful. While other institutions, including the University of Buffalo, have worked with companies in fields including medical diagnostics, pharmaceuticals, surgical devices and more, these fields require a number of stipulations to ensure product safety: for example, a flexible sterile package, such as an IV Bag, needs to subjected to various container closure integrity testing procedures during its product life cycle to ensure sterility.

Despite the demands of various industries, however, the Start-Up companies that have found success in Central New York belong to a variety of different fields. For example, ESF’s sponsored company, Windsor Wood, manufactures proprietary wood products, while Empire Farmstead Company, a project from Empire Brewing Co., is working with Morrisville State College. Moreover, state officials working with the program report that there are dozens of other companies awaiting approval. The officials also dismissed the idea of regional disparity, noting that the state hasn’t rejected any applications from Start-Up NY companies looking to work in Central New York.

Start-Up NY targets new and expanding businesses, although only the expansions and new employees will benefit from the program if they are part of an existing company. If approved for the program, participating companies will receive 10 years free of income, business, corporate, sales and property taxes.