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Cruelty-free leather company opts for N.J. over Long Island

Modern Meadow co-founder and CEO Andras Forgacs, seen

Modern Meadow co-founder and CEO Andras Forgacs, seen here on May 11, 2016, says the company will move to New Jersey rather than to a site at Farmingdale State College. Credit: Getty Images for TechCrunch / Noam Galai

A biotechnology company that develops cruelty-free leather without killing animals has decided to operate a factory and headquarters in New Jersey instead of Long Island, executives announced Monday.

Modern Meadow Inc., which has been based in Brooklyn, opened in the former U.S. headquarters of drugmaker Hoffmann-LaRoche Inc. in Nutley, New Jersey on Monday. The Garden State backed the move with as much as $32 million in state tax credits over 10 years, officials said.

Modern Meadow had been weighing a smaller offer from New York State to move to the Broad Hollow Bioscience Park at Farmingdale State College.

The 6-year-old company employs a process called biofabrication to create leather, CEO Andras Forgacs said last year in Melville. The company uses “living cells to grow nature’s materials,” using “a process entirely free of animals,” he said.

Modern Meadow has about 70 workers and expects to employ 263 in New Jersey by 2020, records show.

Forgacs said on Monday the tax breaks from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority were a key factor in the company’s relocation decision.

He said Modern Meadow will retain an office in Brooklyn, where, since 2015, it will pay no state and local taxes for as many as 10 years as part of the Start-Up NY tax-free zones program. Employees pay no state income tax for as along as 10 years.

Forgacs said the Brooklyn facility will be a “design and applied research lab.” It will be located in the Brooklyn Navy Yard; the company closed its office in Sunset Park on Aug. 4, a spokeswoman said.

Business and political leaders on Long Island had hoped Modern Meadow would serve as an anchor tenant to the bioscience park, which lost its anchor, OSI Pharmaceuticals, to Illinois in 2013. The park now only has a couple of tech startups.

Park executive director Greg Blyskal said, “We spent several months negotiating and crafting an offer that would be attractive to Modern Meadow and also cost-effective for the bioscience park, and we will now refocus our efforts on attracting other companies that have expressed interest.”

Blyskal said Monday that he is “currently talking with multiple companies.”

In addition to the Start-Up NY benefits, New York State supported Modern Meadow’s proposed move to Farmingdale by offering $1 million from Empire State Development, and low-cost electricity from the state Power Authority.

Amy Varghese, a spokeswoman for Empire State Development, the state’s primary business-aid agency, said on Monday, the agency “remains committed to catalyzing vibrant job growth and economic opportunity on Long Island.”

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