Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks on Oct. 22, 2013, in...

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks on Oct. 22, 2013, in Melville about the Start-Up NY program that gives big tax breaks to businesses that locate on state university property. Credit: Ed Betz

An independent audit of New York State's multimillion-dollar advertising campaign for business development and tourism is nearly completed, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said Wednesday.

His office has been reviewing the contract awarded to BBDO, a Manhattan advertising firm, to develop commercials that tout Start-Up NY tax-free zones, improvements to the business climate under Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and New York tourist destinations, including Long Island's beaches and North Fork wineries.

In 2011, the state legislature authorized Empire State Development, the state's primary business-aid agency, to spend up to $200 million on advertising for the four years ended March 31. The agency hired BBDO.

Critics have questioned the ads' value and called on DiNapoli to audit Start-Up NY.

He wouldn't commit Wednesday to a review of Start-Up NY. "Our first step is looking at the advertising contract and that report is being finalized and will be out shortly," he told reporters in Manhattan.

Empire State Development released a report Tuesday showing fewer negative perceptions about New York by out of state business executives since the ads began airing.

Fifty-one percent said they would consider expanding in New York, compared with 22 percent in fall 2013. The report, by Russell Research of New Jersey, was paid for by Empire State Development.

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