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Start-ups welcome at Stony Brook University

Stony Brook University hopes to team up with start-up businesses that move to the area. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

June 26, 2013 | 05:19 PM
State lawmakers voted last week to allow some companies to operate tax free on state university and private campuses, if they create new jobs and have collaborative business ventures with their hosts.

The new program, START-UP NY — or SUNY Tax-free Areas to Revitalize and Transform Upstate NY — is a result of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's initiative introduced last month, that proposed tax-free zones for eligible companies.

According to the governor's office, business, sales and property taxes will be waived for eligible companies for 10 years. Employees of these companies will pay no income taxes for five years.

For an additional five years, employees earning less than $200,000 and filing taxes as an individual; earning less than $250,000 and filing as head of household; or earning less than $300,000 and filing jointly will not have to pay income tax.

In return, the companies must create jobs, "be aligned with or further the academic mission of the campus" they are located on, and demonstrate "positive community and economic benefits," according to a press release from the governor's office.

According to the governor's office, if the business is in Suffolk, Nassau or Westchester counties or New York City, it has to be either a new start-up company, or be a high-tech company. If it meets one of those criteria, a company can also apply if it is an out-of-state company relocating to New York, or if it is an expanding company creating a new line of business — or opening a new facility — that will generate new jobs.

Also, start-ups that began and spent their formative years in business incubators in New York can "graduate" to the tax-free communities.

Some businesses — restaurants, retail companies and wholesale companies — are not eligible to be part of the tax-free zones.

The tax-free zones on Long Island will be located on SUNY campuses, and in SUNY-affiliated business incubators. In addition, some private campuses in Nassau and Suffolk, selected by the START-UP NY program's board, will each get 75,000 square feet of on-campus space.

Stony Brook University President Dr. Samuel Stanley Jr. said the university "enthusiastically applauds" the new program. At SBU "where we have a track record of turning ideas and research into businesses and new products … START-UP NY not only opens the door, it essentially removes the barriers for start-ups and existing companies to succeed in New York State." Stanley also said the new legislation "will undoubtedly help launch hundreds of new businesses on Long Island."

SBU spokesperson Lauren Sheprow said university officials "are closely reviewing the new law to determine the steps needed to implement" the program.

When asked to describe businesses the university has partnered with, or might collaborate with under the terms of START-UP NY, Sheprow said the new legislation states eligible businesses in Suffolk County must be start-ups, "or be engaged in the design, development and introduction of new biotechnology, information technology … engineering or electronic technology products and/or innovative manufacturing processes."

State Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) said of the new program, "Linking higher education with bio-tech, technology and energy businesses will produce good paying jobs for Long Islanders and establish an environment in which we can compete with areas like Silicon Valley."

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