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UB dives into Start-Up NY


Published March 31, 2014

“It is meant to be an entrepreneurial initiative, meaning we’re trying to grow private sector jobs.”
Marnie LaVigne, associate vice president for economic development

Engaging with industry isn’t really anything new for UB, but those efforts have been ramped up as part of the university’s involvement with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Start-Up NY program.

UB has talked to “at least” 100 companies seeking space at the university as part of the program, Marnie LaVigne, associate vice president for economic development, reported at Thursday’s Professional Staff Senate meeting.

LaVigne’s office has had intensive discussions with about 40 of those companies, which include a mix of businesses seeking to expand operations already in the Buffalo region and some looking to relocate from out of state to take advantage of the tax-free zones established by the governor’s program. UB will recommend approval for nine companies proposing a total of 240 new jobs, LaVigne said.

Cuomo created Start-Up NY last year to allow businesses to leverage the research capacity at SUNY campuses by operating in tax-free zones for 10 years. That means that companies that get the nod from the Start-Up NY approval board don’t pay income tax, as well as business, corporate, state and local taxes; sales and property taxes; or franchise fees for 10 years. Certain benefits also are extended to new employees hired as a result of the program.

“This is [available] throughout New York State, but by and large it was designed for upstate New York. The limitations are much greater for anyone in Manhattan or Long Island,” said LaVigne.

“It is meant to be an entrepreneurial initiative, meaning we’re trying to grow private sector jobs. There is an opportunity for nonprofits, but it’s heavily focused on the for-profit sector. The key, though, is that you cannot get into this program unless you come through a higher ed institution. I’m not sure there’s actually any other program of this scope in the country or maybe in the world that actually requires that.”

The program targets three categories of business: New York State-based startups, out-of-state companies looking to relocate to New York and businesses that already have a presence in the state and are expanding operations. Each company must align with or advance the academic mission of the SUNY institution with which it is affiliated, LaVigne said. Companies are reviewed annually to ensure they meet the goals of the program and can be removed if they don’t.

Start-Up NY can benefit UB in various ways, LaVigne said. First, companies pay rent to occupy space identified on one of UB’s three campuses. The majority of UB’s available space is on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. With the possibility of companies creating new internships, the program ties into the experiential learning component of UB 2020.

UB is one of eight SUNY campuses approved to participate in Start-Up NY. LaVigne said the program is indicative of a major shift occurring at colleges and universities around the country.

“Higher education, probably across this country and across the world, really has not seen the kinds of initiatives that are suddenly in the hands of folks like myself sitting at universities which have engaged in traditional activities,” LaVigne said, adding, “We were very fortunate to have this program put in front of us because we do engage with industry a lot, so this is kind of a natural for us.”