Open To Business

A new approach to job development puts SUNY campuses at the forefront of growth.

Lt. Gov. Bob Duffy was at Jamestown Community College on Thursday to discuss Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Tax-Free New York economic development initiative.

“This is one of the most exciting programs that I have seen or heard of in my career,” Duffy said. “The governor has come out and he has proposed tax-free communities to all 64 SUNY campuses and a number of private college and university campuses across the state. It is totally tax-free incentives for new businesses or businesses that expand to create new jobs, new net jobs.”

Under the initiative, businesses geared toward the academic mission of a SUNY campus would be free of sales, property and corporate taxes for 10 years if they move to or open on a SUNY campus. Additionally, employees of the businesses would not have to pay income taxes. The initiative would exclude retailers, real estate and professional businesses such as lawyers and doctors’ offices. However, Duffy said manufacturing businesses would be welcomed.

“The sky is the limit,” Duffy said. “We’re going to see that it’s not just a New York City-based program. The governor wants Upstate New York to change, and this program leans very, very heavily on upstate. It does nothing but bode well for us.”

In addition to the SUNY campuses, Duffy said 200,000 square feet of adjoining campuses would be included under the initiative.

“There may be properties that are contiguous, and some campuses have satellite offices,” Duffy said. “There are a number of opportunities. If there is an opportunity that is off-campus, and there’s a partnership, I think those are things that need to be looked at and negotiated down the road. Those that are off-campus and not a part of this process, there would have to be a tax agreement negotiated with local government.”

According to Duffy, there is no cost locally or at the state level for the Tax-Free New York initiative, as SUNY campuses already do not pay taxes. And, Duffy said by implementing the initiative, there will be many opportunities for gain.

“As a former mayor, I am very aware of the fact that every dollar spent in the community will turn over four, five or six times,” he said. “If you envision these businesses coming with x number of employees, they will go out and they will buy cars, they’ll buy food, they’ll buy homes, they’ll go to movies, they’ll have their cars repaired, they’ll be spending. All the small businesses and large businesses in the region are going to benefit from that.”

One of the biggest hurdles for the initiative, Duffy admitted, was changing the perspective that New York is not a business-friendly state.

“What I would like to think is, when we see a company come here, once they come here, you come to Jamestown, you come to New York state, you come to Upstate New York, once you are here, once you get a sense for the great talent we have, the great higher education system, the great communities, I think our workforce is second-to-none,” Duffy said. “Once they come, I don’t think they’re going to want to leave.”

Next week marks the end of legislative session of New York state senators and the assembly. The final fate of the Tax-Free New York initiative lies with the state legislature.