By Justin Sondel
Gov. Andrew Cuomo stopped in Buffalo to highlight the accomplishments of the legislative session as part of a cross-state victory lap.
Cuomo staged an event at the Burchfield-Penny Art Center on the campus of Buffalo State College where he was joined by politicians and other civic leaders from across the region.
Cuomo pointed to key legislative accomplishments from this session, which concluded over the weekend as proof that New York state, particularly upstate, is moving in the right direction after years of economic stagnation.
“We have done a lot over these past two years, a lot of progress on a lot of levels,” Cuomo said. “You can feel the energy. You can feel the momentum.”
Cuomo promoted several of his initiatives — the “Buffalo Billion,” the property tax cap — but concentrated on Start Up NY, the initiative which will create “tax free communities” on college campuses throughout the state.
Both the state Assembly and the Senate passed the legislation that will create the program as the legislative session came to an end.
The program’s logo was prominently displayed on the podium and on the table where Cuomo held a ceremonial signing of the bill surrounded by legislators.
The bill will allow start-up companies, companies that relocate to New York state and expanding companies already here to operate with no taxes — including no income tax for employees — for 10 years on and adjacent to state college campuses.
There will also be 3 million square feet of tax-free space that will be offered for private universities subject to a competitive application process.
The companies must “be aligned with or further the academic mission of the campus, college or university,” according to press materials from the Cuomo’s office.
The program, which ahs been criticized by some in the business and labor communities as giving an unfair advantage to the companies who participate, will make New York state a desirable destination for businesses, Cuomo said.
The state needs to alter the perception that it is a tax heavy place that is an unfriendly environment for businesses, he added.
“When you’re talking about a tax-free environment and all assets of the great state of New York, what could be better than that winning combination?,” Cuomo said.
Mayor Paul Dyster, who attended the event, said the Start Up NY program creates an opportunity for Niagara Falls to attract businesses to the former Rainbow Centre Mall.
The Niagara Falls Culinary Institute — part of Niagara County Community College — has taken over the south end of the building. That means that the remaining 200,000 square feet of space would be eligible for the program.
“This was an unanticipated positive benefit of having the community college locate a satellite campus in downtown Niagara Falls,” Dyster said.
Dyster said that Niagara University, which which the city has built a strong relationship, would be eligible to compete for the opportunity to participate in the program.
The university also has satellite offices in the city for its ReNU Niagara program.
“We already have a huge number of partnerships with Niagara University so there’s some opportunities there,” Dyster said.