By Greis Torres
Republican state legislators renewed calls to shut down Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Startup NY program, a small business incubator which York College joined three years ago but has had limited success.
“They acknowledged that only 756 jobs have been created,” said John Flanagan, the senate majority leader at a press conference mid-February. “That alone should make us take a hard look and say ‘do we really need this program.’”
The Senate has criticized the economic development plan saying too much funding has been spent on ads claiming that the state is open to do business with almost no substantial results.
Based on the latest Start-Up NY annual job report released in 2016, the program has created a total of 1,135 new jobs with an investment of $44 million and almost $96 million in employment wages since it launched in 2014.
Between 2014 and 2016, a total of 212 businesses were approved for the Start Up NY program, and a total of $6 million in business and personal tax benefits were utilized by the companies.
“The program should be supported. It may provide advantages to CUNY schools to leverage the skills of the students,” said Lecturer for the Business and Economic department Wayne M. Forrester. “If you drive around the campus, you’ll see depressed economic areas so if you employ more people in this area, the local economy will improve.”
“StartupNY” is an initiative implemented in 2013 to create tax-free work zones for new businesses in areas near CUNY and SUNY campuses. The program includes a $1.2 billion tax cut in taxes for businesses and utility bills offering new or expanding businesses the benefits of working in those areas tax-free for up to 10 years.
Employees working at those tax-free businesses won’t pay taxes for the first five years, and for the remaining five years, employees will pay no taxes on income of up to $200 thousand; head of households won’t pay taxes on an income of $250 thousand; and $300 thousand for taxpayers filing a joint return.
At first designated only for SUNY campuses, the program expanded to also include CUNY campuses choosing one college for each borough. York College was selected to participate in this program in 2014. The program was launched in 2015.
The eligibility requirements for a business to apply for this program are to be based on New York state, or looking forward to relocate to NY. To apply for the program, the company needs to find a program at a participating college that best fits for them, and then contact the college.
Retail, hospitality, law firms, medical practices, real estate, business administration, and energy production and distribution companies are ineligible to apply for the program.
Oslene Carrington, the interim executive director of the economic and workforce development office at York, said that since 2016 only 15 startup companies that meet the criteria to apply for the program at York have contacted her.
The approval process can take up to 10 months and the companies can’t operate until they are approved by the Empire State Development.
Currently, three companies are participating in the program. YORK Analytical Laboratories, a full, independent environmental lab that provides analysis of water, soil and air pollution was approved in 2017. The lab has offices in upstate New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and their extended office is located in Richmond Hill, Queens. Two companies are still in the approval process.
So far only one student has interned at the laboratory, according to Earth and Physical Sciences Associate Professor Ratan Dhar.
He added that the department is trying to develop a collaboration with the laboratory, and he sometimes takes his students to the lab so they can see the techniques they employ.
Microdrones, an unmanned aerial vehicles systems company that builds and sell their own drones and quadcopters, is in the last stage of the approval process. They are looking forward to expand and they have other offices in Griffiss International Airport and Business Park in Rome, NY through a partnership with Mohawk Valley Community College’s StartUp program. As part of the program, they have committed to a minimum of five new jobs over the next five years. The company will be collaborating with faculty and administration on internships, research projects and scholarship funding.
“We are confident that once all is approved and business is underway, our relationship with York and CUNY will increase the access to local talent and subject matter expertise,” said Mike Dziok, the marketing director for Microdrones.
Forrester said that a probable reason why many companies haven’t applied for the Start Up program at York is because there is a lack of resources.
“There may be more commitment required to drive this initiative,” said Forrester. “We might advertise this, but we need to make sure there’s a match. If high tech companies are going to apply for the program they won’t come to York because York is not a high-tech school, but if it’s a company where they would need biology majors, they would come to York because this school has expertise on that area.”