Statewide program includes 1 local firm

Published Apr 6, 2017 at 4:00pm

The Start-Up NY tax incentive program helped create more than 700 new jobs last year, according to its annual report.

In Oneida County, one company is operating under the the program, which allows businesses to operate tax-free for 10 years in designated zones at or near colleges and universities.

Microdrones, a German drone systems company, has its U.S. headquarters at Griffiss International Airport. The report says it created five jobs last year. It opened as Pro Drones USA and the current name resulted from an ownership change. When the company landed at the Rome airport, the move was seen as an indication that the U.S. commercial market for drone services and opportunities was taking flight. Griffiss is one of six federal designated test sites for unmanned aerial vehicles, more commonly known as drones.

There’s also a Start-Up NY participant in Madison County. Empire Farmstead Brewery, Inc., in Cazenovia, has created 40 new jobs since joining the program in 2015. The company anticipates adding another 12 jobs by 2020, according to the report.

Across the state, participating companies reported 757 new jobs last year. Since the inception of the Start-Up NY program, 1,135 jobs have been created and these jobs have paid a reported total of $95.7 million in wages, according to the report put out by Empire State Development, the state’s lead economic development agency. 

In 2014, the program’s first year, around 75 new jobs were created — a number that attracted criticism for being too low given the state’s investment in the program.

As of Dec. 31, 82 colleges and universities had submitted and received approval of their campus plans. In Oneida County, the schools are Mohawk Valley Community College and SUNY Polytechnic Institute. The SUNY Poly designation includes the Computer Chip Commercialization Center. SUNY Morrisville is the only Madison County college in the program.

A total of 212 companies have been approved to participate in the program, of which 156 were operating in tax-free areas. The majority of them are emerging technology companies in information technology, biotechnology or research and development.

By region, Mohawk Valley has smallest number of participating companies, two. The next lowest is Central New York at three, followed by the North Country with four.

The region with the most participating businesses is Western New York, 50.

The program has been slow to develop and has attracted criticism, especially for the $45 million in state funding spent on its advertising, despite the lack of job growth in its first two years. Start-UP NY wipes out 10 years of income, property and sales tax for new or relocating businesses that set up shop in pre-determined zones.

Howard Zemsky, CEO of Empire State Development, said the program is proving to be “one of the most cost-effective, innovative and valuable tools’’ to spur economic development.

In Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s 2017-18 executive budget proposal, Start-Up NY is to be revised and renamed as the Excelsior Business Program.