What do a herb-infused whiskey distillery and Morrisville State College have in common?

Start-Up NY.

While looking for a place to begin a business and herb farm, Mary Kish of Hamilton looked into the state program that gives tax incentives for businesses that start on college campuses.

“Our goal is to start our business and see how it can complement the curriculum of Morrisville,” Kish said.

If approved, Kish and her partner Melanie Martin would have the distillery and herb farm on the campus and surrounding land, doubling as an agrotourism stop with tea tastings and walks through the herb gardens.

“It’s really a great benefit,” Kish said of the campus and the tax incentives.

The company, Simply Botanicals of the Northeast, is one of many statewide that has applied to be part of the Start-Up NY program.

Having officially launched in October, Start-Up NY allows businesses to start up or significantly expand on college campuses and operate tax free for up to 10 years.

And for a college-rich area such as the Mohawk Valley, that means economic growth and most of all, jobs.

“Two words that come to my mind are ‘increased opportunity,'” said Genesis Group Executive Director Ray Durso. “I think it’s a win-win.”

Durso said he knows of two companies interested in participating.

“They are really going forward because of the tax free incentive to grow new divisions of their companies right here in this area,” he said.

Area colleges on board

Herkimer County Community College, Morrisville State, Mohawk Valley Community College, SUNYIT and Utica College have or are in the process of applying. Empire State also is applying but only can use its Saratoga Springs campus.

Most already have interested businesses that also plan to apply.

“It is moving quickly,” said Robert Geer, acting president of SUNYIT. “We’ve been contacted by well over a dozen, nearly 20 companies. Some have formally started the (application) process. As summer moves into fall it would be great to have some of these companies on site.”

To qualify, companies must be starting up, be from out of state and relocating to New York, or be an expansion of an existing company.

E.J. McMahon, president of the Empire Center for New York State Policy, a nonprofit think tank, questions what kind of businesses will get into this and how many lasting jobs it will create.

“Some of them will fail and won’t produce any economic benefits,” McMahon said. “It’s capitalism; that’s how it works.”

McMahon said the spaces available for the businesses to move into are very small making it less likely for the “massive game-changing” enterprises to move in.

“I think their impact will be relatively limited, outside of a few tech-oriented (businesses),” he said.

A good fit

The key is finding the right company-college partners.

Start-Up NY requires that the businesses have a similar mission as the college they apply to work with, said Morrisville Provost David Rogers.

Morrisville will focus on areas such as agriculture, farming and renewable energy, as well as companies that fit the student-run businesses already on campus, such as the Equine Rehabilitation Center.

A great fit for the rehabilitation center, for example, would be a veterinarian surgical center so the horses can go straight from surgery to the rehab center.

“We really have in place a business infrastructure or ecosystem that really allows us to reach out to a group of partners that we’ve had long standing relationships with,” Rogers said.

And having businesses on campus means more internship and research opportunities for the students.

For Utica College, the Northeast Cyber Forensics Center is expected to be a big draw.

The college plans to focus on cybersecurity, information assurance and digital forensics companies, said college President Todd Hutton.

“We also expect to recruit businesses that will compliment or support the development plans for nanotechnology,” Hutton said.

“Utica College has always contributed to the economic development of the region,” he said. “We’re an anchor tenant in the Mohawk Valley. We want to continue to improve the quality of life. I think this is one way we can contribute to bring jobs to the Mohawk Valley.

© 2014, Utica Observer-Dispatch

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