Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's state-paid advertising blitz to promote New York has produced no tangible results, according to an audit released Monday.
Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said the $211 million in state funds spent on an advertising contract to promote economic development and tourism had no clear objectives and brought no clear results.
Many of the ads flooded TV stations statewide during the 2014 campaigns in which Cuomo ran for re-election on a platform that New York was "Open for Business."
The audit also found Cuomo's START-UP NY program that offers tax-free assistance for companies and their employees who come to New York isn't the success the governor has portrayed. The program is aimed at high-tech companies that would align with colleges for research.
The audit found that from October 2013 to October 2014, the state spent $45.1 million to advertise START-UP NY and received 18,203 applications.
But just 10 percent of applicants were eligible for the program and only 41 enrolled in the program during that time. Those 41 businesses propose to create 1,750 jobs over the next five years, which the audit said would mean each job will cost taxpayers about $25,000 in advertising.
"When government spends hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to send a message that New York is a place to visit and open for business, it should have clear objectives and show the public actual results," DiNapoli said.
The Cuomo administration disputed the audit and said the advertising program succeeded in drawing attention to economic development programs.
"The facts, as confirmed by ongoing independent quantitative research, show our efforts have made great strides in improving perceptions of New York State," said Jason Conwall, spokesman for the state Empire State Development Corp. They created a "greater awareness of our economic development programs and [increased] the perception that New York is a good or excellent place to do business," Conwall said.
Conwall said DiNapoli used the number of companies that simply inquired about START-UP on a form, not the much smaller number of true applicants. That distorted the audit's findings, Conwall said.