Lt. Gov. Duffy Talks Tax-Free Zones on SUNY Campuses in Rochester

May 23, 2013

 Startups and expanding companies that set up shop on community and SUNY College campuses wouldn't have to pay state taxes for up to 10 years.

That’s under the governor's proposed "Tax Free NY" initiative to spur economic and business growth.

Lt. Bob Duffy visited The College at Brockport's Rochester Educational Opportunity Center in downtown Rochester Thursday. City, business and education leaders attended the event.

"It is our hope that once people come here and start and create a successful business, and relationships, that they will stay,” Duffy explains that the idea is a way to try and change New York's reputation of being one the worst cities to start a business. “Those tax breaks …they're pretty substantial, and when you we look at the depth across the board - income tax, sales tax, the property taxes, all the business fees, franchise fees. It’s a pretty enormous cost savings for those businesses that apply."

However, one concern that’s been raised about the tax-free zones on and surrounding SUNY campus is for current businesses who pay taxes and can’t relocate.

"It’s not going to please everybody, we understand that,”says Duffy, explaining there will be disparities. “But, I do believe the positive impact is going too far out way the negatives by a mile. And we just have to keep building on that. And make sure NY is on the forefront when these company and merging technologies come forward."

Duffy says they are working on coming up with some cost-saving solutions to help local businesses. Brockport President John Halstead says the initiative would provide college students the opportunity for internships as well as offer their 40,000 graduate’s job opportunities.

"We have 464 acres on our campus that's begging for this kind of economic development,” says Halstead. “In this very building, the 5th floor, there would be a beautiful opportunity for a new business venture."

The proposed tax breaks would last up to 10 years.  

Some private colleges are also included in the program, offering a total of 300-million square feet of tax-free commercial space. RIT and the University of Rochester have expressed interest the initiative.  

Duffy says the tax-free initiative would be of no cost to localities or the state. However, he says the state plans to give up some future revenue to make the program work.

The initiative requires approval by the state legislature.