BY KATHY KAHN
For The Rockland Times
Same horse, different color?
When local businesses started railing against Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “Tax Free New York” proposal and the Legislature booted it back to Executive Chamber, it was tweaked, given a new name and, as a result, a new lease on life.
“Start Up New York” has replaced the original proposal and has guidelines for entry more restrictive. The program’s original initiatives, however, essentially remain the same. Those who sit on the Mid-Hudson Economic Development Council hope the new business attraction tool will taste less bitter to established businesses which are paying full freight, sans any perks
At Dominican College in Orangeburg on July 9, the Mid-Hudson EDC representatives met with Lt. Governor Robert Duffy, co-chairs Dennis Murray (President, Marist College) and Dr. Leonard Schleifer (President, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals) and Aimee Vargas, executive director of Mid-Hudson Empire State Development. The group of almost 25 met in a one hour executive session before opening the doors to the public and press. Duffy’s Power Point presentation whisked quickly through the components of Start Up New York. The name change to Start Up New York-now dubbed SUNY–was no mistake: it is the acronym by which the State University of New York’s community college system is known.
Duffy told Mid-Hudson EDC council members and listeners there would be extreme oversight when the state’s 64 SUNY/CUNY college determine if a business applying for admission into Start Up New York is, in fact, a legitimate prospective new business or a business relocating from out of state intending to expand and hire new employees. If an out-of-state applicant is expanding, it must prove it not merely relocating its current employees into New York. For those already established in the state, changing its business’s name to gain entry into Start Up New York, ESD/EDC pledged to weed them out. Also excluded from the program are retailers, wholesalers and restaurants. Duffy reiterated that all new employees would pay no state tax at all for the first five years, including the principal or owners of the businesses that apply for entry into the SUNY program. There are state income tax restrictions on the second half of the 10 year program.
“Obviously,” said Duffy, “we have no control over federal taxes, but we are seeing New York State bypassed because other states do not have any state income tax regulations. This is a game-changer for New York.”
The program is geared towards attracting businesses to move north of Long Island, New York City and Westchester, where Start Up New York’s initiatives have been scaled back. The 64 SUNY/CUNY campuses with empty space can lease to approved Start Up New York applicants; if there’s not enough space in the college’s existing facilities, new start-ups or businesses will be allowed to build on the campus or move into an existing vacant space within one mile radius of the SUNY campus it is partnering with, choosing state property that has been closed– i.e., Rockland Psychiatric Center. (20 other strategically located state-owned properties currently shuttered are also on the table.) The mission of the start-up or relocating business must be working with the college it is locating on or near, giving students a chance to intern at its facility and perhaps leading to hiring after graduation. “The goal is to create new jobs,” said Duffy.
Private colleges will also be permitted, to a limited extent, to participate in Start Up New York. Colleges and private universities with business incubators already on campus will be encouraged to start up new businesses, with an eye towards becoming a viable taxpaying rateable for the counties they are located in.
Currently, Mid-Hudson EDC and its nine state counterparts held Consolidated Funding Workshops for potential applicants. The program, which has combined resources of nearly $757 million available, was opened on June 17 and will end on August 12, 2013 at 4:00pm. Applications for businesses that want to receive grant money can be found on the Regional Councils’ website. “These applications must be submitted by that date and time in order to be eligible,” said Vargas. Funding is available through several sources, including NYSERDA, Higher Education Services, The Dept. of Environmental Conservation, and NYS Council for the Arts and Homes & Community Renewal. There is something for everyone, as long as they apply. Orangetown supervisor Andy Stewart said that despite the funding available, he’s been finding it difficult to get existing businesses to look into the CFA program. “We do need to get the word out to small business owners that they can apply for funding,” said Stewart, “but it’s very difficult to get them the information or to get them to call and ask about it.”
The Mid-Hudson ESD is also focusing on “priority projects” for the region and hopes to get funding to get new business spinning in Rockland. “Rockland hasn’t had enough businesses applying to get grant money available,” said Rockland Business Association Al Samuels. “Hopefully, we’ll see more money coming into Rockland through the funding applications during this next cycle.” As far as Start Up New York was concerned, Samuels said, “The fact is, if you have an empty space, and a new business comes in and fills it, if they are paying no state tax, what is the difference if the space is empty? At least, we will be creating new jobs. That’s the goal.”
One drawback to problems that might arise with “new job creation” was answered by Duffy: What happens if an existing business is hurt by the SUNY program, perhaps even losing employees to a SUNY company because they can avoid paying state taxes? “It’s called competition,” said Duffy. “Hopefully, we’ll see just new hires coming into this program. If for some reason a person leaves a company to work there, hopefully that business owner will replace the employee who has left.”
The New York Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Council selected The Byne Group in Suffern to work with local tourism groups market the Hudson Valley as a destination. Hopefully, rail trails, historic sites, parks, restaurants and Hudson Valley History will bring much needed revenue to the cash-strapped state.
To learn more about Start Up New York, visit www.nysesd.gov. To learn more about the Consolidated Funding Application process, visit www.regionalcouncils.ny.gov.