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Colleges move forward on Start-Up Ny

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POTSDAM - Start-Up NY, the state program allowing colleges to establish tax-free zones for businesses, officially started in January, but it will still be some time before it is implemented at St. Lawrence County’s colleges.

SUNY Potsdam expects to begin taking applications from businesses next month, while SUNY Canton is taking a few extra months to iron out some final details.

Start-Up NY allows eligible new or expanding businesses to operate essentially tax-free on land maintained by colleges and universities. Employees will not have to pay income tax, while the companies will be exempt from property, sales and business taxes for 10 years.

Businesses will apply directly to colleges, and the colleges will make the call on who to accept. The state’s Empire State Development Corp. will have a 60-day window to reject any application before the deal is finalized, so it will still be a few months before businesses start operating in the tax-free zones.

SUNY Potsdam’s campus plan is nearing the end of its approval process, and several businesses are already interested, said John M. Wicke, SUNY Potsdam’s director of strategic alliances.

“We’ve had several inquiries, and we’re optimistic that we will be partnering with businesses in 2014,” he said.

SUNY Canton’s tax-free zones will take a bit longer to get up and running. SUNY asked the college to make several changes to its plan. The college will resubmit a revised plan in early March.

The requested changes were mostly minor technical tweaks, according to college spokeswoman Lenore E. VanderZee.

As SUNY Canton prepares to submit its second draft, the college is looking for businesses that might fit in well in its tax-free zones. The goal is not only to find businesses that will create jobs, but also to identify those that fit in with the college’s curriculum, according to Ms. VanderZee.

“While we are in the process of submitting the campus plan, we plan to lay the groundwork with promising start-ups and expanding businesses that fit with the college’s educational mission so that when we are able to take formal applications the process will move quickly and efficiently,” she said via email.

SUNY Potsdam has also been actively pursuing entrepreneurs, particularly among alumni.

The college will reach out to graduates across the country, trying to convince them to move back to Potsdam and set up shop in the tax-free zone, Mr. Wicke said.

“Alumni, they know the area. They love the area,” he said.

It is important colleges partner with businesses that integrate well with its teaching goals, Ms. Vanderzee said. The program is designed to benefit students as well as the economy.

“It also provides the opportunity for students to have access to internships in their field of study, access to equipment that may be otherwise difficult to obtain, or even scholarship funds supplied by partnering businesses,” she said.

Both colleges are working with the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority and the St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency to implement the plan.

Several types of businesses are ineligible to receive benefits under Start-Up NY. Retail establishments, restaurants, and professional services like accounting firms can not participate, nor can businesses in direct competition with existing local establishments. Businesses must be creating new jobs in order to be eligible, not just moving existing ones from elsewhere in the state.

Representatives from the colleges and the state will keep an eye on businesses in the years to come to measure the success of the program, although the specific metrics for determining success have yet to be determined.

Start-Up NY will last until 2020.

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