Hey look: another failing business-incentive program!

Remember a couple years ago when New York launched “Startup NY,” an ambitious, expensive business incentive program? Vermont officials looked on with envy and concern as a program they couldn’t possibly match went into effect — with a barrage of slick TV ads saturating the Vermont airwaves, no less.

Republicans used Startup NY as a cudgel when attacking Governor Shumlin for not being business-friendly. Shumlin used it as something of a bargaining chip to get the Legislature to approve his desired incentive programs.

Well, the Cuomo administration just issued its required annual status report on Startup NY — months after the due date, and released at 4:30 pm on Friday afternoon heading into the Fourth of July weekend.

Yep, a newsdump. And yep, the report was bad news.

The companies that moved into the StartUp NY network of tax-free zones have created just 408 of the more than 4,100 jobs they promised to add to the state’s employment rolls within five years, according to a long-delayed report released late Friday by Empire State Development.

Well, now we know why the report was “long-delayed” and released at the last possible moment before a three-day weekend. Nobody in the Cuomo administration wanted to face questions about it.

Wow. 400 jobs in two and a half years. In a state with 20 million people.

If the same program were Vermont-scaled, the net job growth would have been 15 jobs statewide.


I guess we can stop worrying about Startup NY cannibalizing our economic base.

Now, the Cuomo people are lipsticking this pig as best they can.

“We are tracking, that’s what’s important,” Leslie F. Whatley, StartUp NY’s executive vice president, said in an interview Friday. “It’s a pretty steep hockey stick. We’re on target.”

“Hockey stick” meaning that we’re in the low, flat part of the hypothetical curve, and any time now it’s going to shoot up into the stratosphere. All you have to do is believe.

Yeah, maybe. But this program was launched with huge fanfare and an expensive advertising campaign. You’d think the immediate results would be a little less catastrophic.

Gee, maybe what I’ve been saying is true: business siting and expansion decisions are based primarily on factors other than the availability of tax breaks. Sure, a company will take an incentive if offered, but the actual impact of incentives like Startup NY is uncertain at best.

1 thought on “Hey look: another failing business-incentive program!

  1. Walter Carpenter

    “Sure, a company will take an incentive if offered, but the actual impact of incentives like Startup NY is uncertain at best.”

    I wonder how many of these good corporate citizens took the money New York taxpayers gave them and ran away to some other state.


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