Gov. Andrew Cuomo continued his push Tuesday to establish tax-free zones for businesses on college campuses in upstate New York, announcing that private universities will be selected to participate through a competitive process.
Cuomo unveiled last week his proposal to boost upstate’s economy by allowing new businesses to form on or near State University of New York campuses outside of New York City and designated private universities north of Westchester County.
Under the state’s plan, private schools would apply for a share of 3 million square feet that would be eligible as tax-free commercial space, the governor said at a Capitol news conference Tuesday. The state would offer 120 million square feet in total, including not only on SUNY campuses but also on other state-owned sites, such as former prisons.
In the tax-free areas, businesses would avoid paying corporate, sales and property taxes for 10 years. Employees wouldn’t pay income taxes for five. Cuomo will need legislative approval for the plan and hopes to secure it before the session ends June 20.
Private schools are already lining up to bring businesses to their campuses, said local leaders who attended the event.
“We are ready to compete,” said Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro, a Republican. “This is a tool that we very much want to take advantage of and put into practice to grow jobs.”
Molinaro mentioned Marist College in Poughkeepsie and the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park as private institutions that could benefit from the program.
Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick, a Democrat, was hopeful for Cornell University and Ithaca College, as well.
“If we’re going to convince particularly students, graduate students, professors, to turn their ideas into their livelihoods and to do it in Ithaca, instead of taking their great ideas, the great educations that we gave them, and running to other states, I think we need a leg up,” Myrick said. “And I think this can be that.”
Cuomo said colleges will submit proposals to the state outlining how they would develop tax-free commercial space on their campuses.
“Whereas on the SUNY campuses the area is eligible from day one, the private schools would apply and say, here’s our idea: We want to use 50,000 square feet. Here’s the business, these are the jobs, this is the commitment, this is what the local government says,” Cuomo said. “And we’ll pick the best applications.”
Cuomo said his administration will begin working with SUNY college presidents next week on the initiative. He said they would launch the competition and selection process for the private schools “quickly,” but he didn’t offer a more specific timeline.
Cuomo said the program centers around SUNY because of the widespread structure of the 64-campus system, particularly upstate. But New York’s privates might have an easier time attracting businesses, he said.
“There is no doubt that some of the private schools actually may have greater economic potential,” Cuomo said. “Some of them have specialized in an area, and they’re world class in that area, so the spin offs may actually be easier at some private schools.”
Here’s more from Molinaro: