In 2013, the governor presented New Yorkers with a new economic-development toy called START-UP NY. The goal was to stimulate growth by eliminating taxes for 10 years on new or expanding businesses enrolling in the program.
Like any good salesman, the governor did not hold back when describing the promise and potential of START-UP NY. This new initiative was not only “game-changing” and a “major transformation,” it was much more.
This was, in the governor’s words, “the most ambitious economic development program in New York State’s recent history.” Even better, it was presented as a can’t-miss proposition because, “companies are lining up for the launch of START-UP NY.”
What a difference two years makes. Apparently those companies were forming a line to the exits.
Despite being required to produce a report by April 1, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) didn’t release START-UP NY information until July 1. The report was 90 days late, issued on the Friday of a holiday weekend, and posted online without notification or an accompanying press release.
These are all deliberate, tactical decisions intended to limit the amount of attention and interest given to the report.
To call it a “report” probably insults all other reports. The highly-anticipated START-UP NY details were merely a section of a larger ESDC document on tax-credit programs.
Think of a child cracking a drinking glass, and putting it in the cabinet with the other glasses so no one will notice – that’s how the state handled the START-UP NY results.
And the job creation numbers show us why. In 2015 START-UP NY created a total of only 332 jobs, bringing its two-year total to a paltry 408. Despite $53 million in taxpayer-funded advertising and lofty promises from the governor, START-UP NY has produced fewer jobs than those at a single Wegmans.
When asked by a reporter about the expense of START-UP NY and the $53 million advertising campaign, the governor ridiculously denied there was any cost because the ads were “generic.”
In his modified sales pitch, he wants us to believe that advertisements containing START-UP NY logos, descriptions and details aren’t specific to the program. That position is even more disingenuous than the advertisements themselves.
One START-UP NY advertisement features the CEO of an Arizona company, proclaiming that he is moving his firm to New York for the business climate. Years after the ad first appeared, that company and CEO remain in Arizona.
We are now being urged to be patient. But in this case our patience comes with a price tag – and that is unacceptable. It has cost $130,000 for every job created by START-UP NY. That’s not game-changing, that’s failing.
It’s time to stop the advertising, the spin, the rhetoric and the approach. Economic development will only come through permanent, comprehensive policies that reduce costs, limit regulations and change the culture for businesses that are already here.
Two years have shown that this economic development gimmick isn’t working. New York taxpayers aren’t getting what they’re paying for. And the business community isn’t buying what the governor is selling.
Brian Kolb is the Minority Leader in the Assembly.