START-UP NY report drawing mixed reaction

| WRGB (CBS Albany)

CAPITAL REGION- Mixed reaction is pouring in on one of the state’s banner job creation programs after the 2015 Start-Up New York report was released three months late.

According to the report, 408 jobs have been created statewide since the program started two years ago. 76 jobs were created in 2014 and 332 jobs in 2015. Those numbers are a far cry from the 4,100 jobs the report is projecting will be created by 2020.

Rick D’Errico is managing director of Biz Lab, which opened in Schenectady just over a year ago and now assists four businesses that are taking advantage of Start-Up New York.

“The goal here is to help companies to grow smart, grow fast,” D’Errico said. “We’re focused on tech companies.”

Those companies get a tax break for ten years as long as they create the jobs and investments they have promised.

But some are questioning the success of Start-Up after their most recent report was released Friday.

“Start-Up New York is proof positive that taxes aren’t the only thing that’s hindering business in the state of New York. It’s clearly something bigger,” Empire Center Policy Analyst Ken Girardin.

Girardin is concerned about the tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer money that has been spent on marketing the program.

“As long as we’re tied up talking about Start-Up New York we are not talking about the other issues that are holding back the private sector,” Girardin said.

Assemblyman Phil Stec voted against Start-Up New York and says advertising costs are just one reason it should eventually be phased out.

“Our local businesses who have worked hard to build their business, had to pay taxes all along, now you’ve got people coming in who don’t have to pay any taxes. I don’t think that’s appropriate,” Steck (D-Colonie) said.

But one of Start-Up New York’s biggest advocates, even in her last week as executive vice president, is Leslie Whatley.

“Economic development programs take time to build. Okay? Four-five years is a normal timeline for anything to take solid hold,”

Whatley said. “I’m quite pleased with what we have achieved to date.”

Whatley is confident the program will hit the number of jobs it is projecting, especially with companies like Biz Lab helping grow the partnership between existing colleges and universities and fresh ideas.

“The leaders here are working hand and glove with SCCC to make sure that they are offering the right kind of courses that the next generation of businesses are going to need,” D’Errico said. “I just think it takes patience […] it takes awhile to build critical mass, to build up momentum.”

Whatley is leaving her post as Start-Up New York’s executive vice president Friday to take up a new job in Connecticut. She says the state is working to find her replacement.

© 2016 WRGB