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Local colleges await their fate as tax-free zone bidders

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo discusses Start-Up NY at

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo discusses Start-Up NY at SUNY Old Westbury on June 28, 2013. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Some local colleges are expected to find out this month whether they'll be home to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's tax-free zones for businesses.

The chairman of a new state panel charged with reviewing applications from private colleges to be designated START-UP NY zones said Tuesday it hopes to meet before April 1.

Applications from SUNY, CUNY and community colleges are being judged by Empire State Development, the state's primary business-aid agency.

Backed by a multimillion-dollar television advertising campaign, START-UP NY exempts companies that locate on college campuses from state and local taxes for up to 10 years. The companies' workers also wouldn't pay income taxes for up to 10 years.

Locally, the program is limited to startups and high-technology businesses involved in industries such as biotechnology, advanced materials and information technology.

"Many applications have come in from the private schools" since the program began Jan. 1, said Andrew Kennedy, chairman of the START-UP NY Approval Board. "So there is some demand and desire by some of the universities to be designated."

The three-member board held an organizational meeting Tuesday in Albany.

Cuomo initially proposed START-UP NY to revitalize upstate counties. But at the behest of state lawmakers and others, he expanded the program to include Long Island, New York City and Westchester County -- though on a smaller scale.

The tax-free zones would be located on vacant land or in unused offices.

Of the 3 million square feet of space to be designated as tax-free zones at private colleges across the state, only 300,000 would be in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

There is no similar cap for SUNY and community colleges. However, each institution can only propose 200,000 square feet of off-campus space to be included in zones.

In addition, the state board can select up to 20 closed state facilities or land as "strategic state assets" that can be zones if tied to a college.

To be eligible for START-UP NY, a company must be new to New York State, recently graduated from a state-recognized incubator, be returning to the state or be an existing business that's starting a new operation.

Kevin Younis, a deputy commissioner at Empire State Development, told the state board yesterday that it wouldn't decide whether a company could locate in a tax-free zone. He said the host college will make recommendations to Empire State Development.


On Long Island, the START-UP NY program of tax-free zones at universities is limited to businesses meeting these criteria:

MUST BE NEW to New York State, recently graduated from a state-recognized incubator, be returning to the state, or be an existing business that's starting a new operation.

ORGANIZED as a corporation, partnership, limited liability company or sole proprietorship.

IN COMPLIANCE with worker protection and environmental regulations

ALIGNED with the interests of the hosting university.

BE ABLE to create jobs in the first year.

BE A STARTUP business or in biotechnology, information technology, remanufacturing, advanced materials, processing, engineering, electronic technology products or other high-tech industries.

CANNOT BE AN accountant, business services company, law firm, medical office, hotel, financial services firm, personal care business, Realtor, restaurant, retailer, utility or wholesaler.


Source: Empire State Development

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