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Start-Up NY a boon or bust? Don’t hide data

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks on Oct. 22,

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks on Oct. 22, 2013, in Melville about the Start-Up NY program that gives big tax breaks to businesses that locate on state university property. Photo Credit: Ed Betz

Start-Up New York is supposed to be a job-generating game-changer for New York State.

Instead, it’s been a costly endeavor with lackluster results. And without action from the State Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, we won’t even know in the future whether the program is a success. Specific disclosure requirements were eliminated from the state budget, and it’ll take legislation to restore them.

Start-Up NY offers a decade of tax breaks to fledgling and expanding businesses located near college campuses, in exchange for the promise of thousands of new jobs.

But the effort has been an expensive one. Beyond $6 million in tax breaks, the state spent $53 million just on advertising for Start-Up NY, which began in 2014. And so far, job creation has been relatively slow. By the end of 2016, NYC had 23 Start-Up companies that promised 449 jobs over five years. After two years of the program, those companies added just 92 net new jobs. Statewide, there’ve been 722 net new jobs, and a promise of 3,324.

How will we know whether the program meets its targets? The recently approved 2017-18 state budget removed language that required companies in Start-Up NY to report how many jobs they’ve created, how much money they’ve invested and other statistics. At first, state officials said it was a mistake. More recently, they said they’ll instead produce a broader report from New York’s Empire State Development arm that would include all of its programs.

That’s not enough. We need specific Start-Up NY regional job and cost data and company-by-company results.

There is pending legislation to restore and expand Start-Up NY disclosure standards. It would require an annual report with detailed data, from benefits received to jobs created. Importantly, it would account for the number of jobs lost if companies fail or have to trim payrolls. That’s key.

Cuomo launched the program and has been its biggest supporter. Only with full reporting will we know whether Start-Up NY lives up to the promises Cuomo made, and whether it’s worth continuing.

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