SUNY Fredonia and JCC ready for Start-Up NY

MAYVILLE – Representatives from two local colleges say they’re ready to partner with local businesses to improve their communities.

On Wednesday, the Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency held a special informational seminar on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Start-Up NY initiative for all interested parties at Mayville’s Chautauqua Suites.

The seminar was hosted by Bill Daly, administrative director and CEO of the Industrial Development Agency, along with a panel of several other local representatives including: Vince Horrigan, Chautauqua County executive; Dr. Virginia Horvath, president of SUNY Fredonia; Dr. Cory Duckworth, president of Jamestown Community College; and Christina Orsi, Western New York regional director of Empire State Development.

“This is a great turnout,” Daly said, addressing a conference room full of attendees. “The reason this is a great turnout is because this is a very unique initiative started by the governor to help businesses start up, to help existing businesses expand and to bring new businesses from other states into New York state. There are a lot of misconceptions and a lot of details, so we assembled the people who know it best. This turnout shows the interest that we’ve had in Start-Up NY.”

The Start-Up NY initiative allows companies to operate tax-free for 10 years if they’re involved with SUNY or community colleges. Businesses will be able to locate in these zones and operate with: no income tax; no business, corporate state or local taxes; no sales tax; no property tax; and no franchise fees. Businesses will have access to resources of world-class higher education institutions, including industry experts and advanced research laboratories. Universities and colleges will become tax-free communities that provide their students and teachers access to real-world, cutting-edge business experiences.

In Chautauqua County, both SUNY Fredonia and JCC are important to the success of Start-Up NY as businesses must operate on or near academic campuses in order to receive the tax incentives that serve as the basis of the initiative.

Horvath said the initiative is also of benefit to SUNY Fredonia’s goal of bolstering its community outreach program.

“It timed itself very nicely with our interest in being more visible and being more active in the communities we serve,” she said. “For us, going into the program, our commitments are to do what we can to provide jobs for the region using the skills and resources of our campus. So it makes sense to partner with companies.”

Duckworth said the services JCC already provides as a community college are comparable with the goals of Start-Up NY.

“For us, we see it as a great opportunity to connect with businesses,” Duckworth said. “As a community college, we see ourselves as an asset to the community. One of my principal missions in being here is to help build a workforce that will be relevant and meaningful to the communities that are here. We’re a player in terms of preparing the workforce, and we have a key role in making sure that, as we educate students, they have an opportunity to work. Hopefully, many of those students will be able to work in our local region so we don’t have to outsource all of our talent to other states and places.”

Duckworth added that JCC’s proposal for Start-Up NY participation was fully approved by Empire State Development on Tuesday.

“We’re just grateful that we’ve made it through that part, and now we can begin to entertain (business) proposals through Start-Up NY,” he said. “You should know that we do not see ourselves as being primarily economic developers; that’s not our main business. Our focus is on educating students. So we want to make sure that we’re listening to people from the IDA and the communities that deal with business engagement a little more directly, and then we can make sure that we accomplish something that is a good fit for us.”

The Start-Up NY proposals submitted by SUNY Fredonia and JCC were overseen by Kevin Kearns, vice president for engagement and economic development at SUNY Fredonia, and John Sayegh, vice president and dean of JCC’s Cattaraugus Campus, respectively. Both Kearns and Sayegh presented briefly on the colleges’ submitted development plans.

Following the presentations, the seminar concluded with a question-and-answer session. Many of the concerns centered around the impact that the initiative would have in the way of competition with already existing businesses.

Sayegh and Horrigan both attempted to dissuade attendees from the notion that businesses taking advantage of the benefits offered through Start-Up NY would have an economic edge over the area’s current businesses.

“Although there is a contiguous census, we’re not going to sponsor a program that would create a competitive disadvantage for existing businesses,” Sayegh said.

Horrigan said precautionary measures are being taken at the county’s legislative level to ensure that Start-Up NY will have no negative impact on existing businesses.

“We know that we’ve got to grow this county, but we need to grow it smart,” he said. “Through the work of the IDA and myself, we’re going to grow smart. We need job opportunity, and we need growth. So, I hope you understand and appreciate that we are not going to sacrifice retention or new jobs or existing business growth just to get somebody in here. We will be smarter than that.”