Hofstra, NYIT join Start-Up NY family

Welcome to the family: Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Start-Up NY program added four new members today, including two on Long Island.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

It’s the startup of something big at Hofstra University and the New York Institute of Technology’s Old Westbury campus, which have both been added to the rolls of the Start-Up NY program.

The Start-Up NY Approval Board green-lighted four individual action plans at its meeting Wednesday in Albany, approving new Tax Free NY Areas at Hofstra and NYIT and embracing plan amendments at two upstate institutions.

In addition to approving the plans submitted by the Long Island schools, the board endorsed new plans at Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh and the Rochester Institute of Technology. Each school’s plan “meets the statutory and regulatory requirements for approval,” according to the Approval Board, as determined by Empire State Development President and CEO Howard Zemsky.

Empire State Development, Albany’s main economic-development engine, manages the Start-Up NY program, which offers new and expanding businesses the opportunity to operate tax-free for 10 years on or near eligible university or college campuses across the state, in exchange for job-creation and regional-investment commitments.

Mark Lesko: The jobs will come.

Mark Lesko: The jobs will come.

Hofstra’s plan is to turn 3,062 square feet inside the Joan and Donald E. Axinn Library into an “idea hub” targeting early-stage companies in the high-tech, biotech and advanced-materials industries, among others. Administered by the university’s Center for Entrepreneurship, the hub will partner with participating businesses to offer student internships and should result in the creation of 25 new jobs within two years, according to the university’s Start-Up NY proposal.

Mark Lesko, executive dean of the Center for Entrepreneurship, said Hofstra’s inclusion in the Start-Up NY program is “great not only for Hofstra, but for the region as a whole.”

“This is an ideal location,” Lesko noted. “And given the extraordinarily high amount of activity and interest in entrepreneurship here, this provides a wonderful opportunity to connect Hofstra faculty and students with entrepreneurs on Long Island.”

At NYIT’s Old Westbury campus, the plan is to use 3,772 square feet of the 8,000-square-foot Entrepreneurship and Technology Innovation Center, located within the campus’ Engineering and Computing Science Building, for a tax-free zone targeting companies in the IT, cybersecurity and green-tech industries, among others.

The ETIC is already stocked with cutting-edge facilities, including laboratories dedicated specifically to bio-engineering, health analytics, nanofabrication, rapid prototyping, aerodynamics and other 21st century disciplines. Promising student internships and what the Approval Board called “enhanced employment opportunities after graduation,” NYIT estimates its Tax-Free NY Area will generate up to 44 new jobs over the next five years – and will amend its plan to add more square footage as space becomes available.

Nada Anid

Nada Anid: The line starts here.

Referencing her institute’s dual missions of serving its student population and contributing to Long Island’s economic growth, Nada Anid, dean of NYIT’s School of Engineering and Computing Sciences, called the Start-Up NY designation “a leap for us.”

“Education for education’s sake is a model that doesn’t work in a 21st century global economy,” Anid told Innovate LI. “This will further close the gap between industry and what we do in the classroom.

“Our students will be able to interact with businesses on our campus and become entrepreneurs in their own right.”

Both Anid and Lesko said they’ve already received feelers from companies interested in Start-Up NY’s tax-abatement spoils. Anid noted a “long line of companies that are waiting … to be folded into our StartUp NY program” – plus NYIT’s plan to “invite large corporations to open spinoffs in our space” – while Lesko cited “an extremely high amount of interest.”

The additions of Hofstra and NYIT bring the number of Long Island-based Start-Up NY zones to eight. The new tax-free spaces join zones around Stony Brook University, Farmingdale State College, SUNY-Old Westbury, Long Island University-Post, Suffolk County Community College and Farmingdale’s Republic Airport.

The newbies also add gravitas to the already-impressive collection of Island-based Start-Up NY zones, according to Approval Board member Abraham Lackman, who noted particular benefits for an industry that’s steadily emerging as LI’s economic cornerstone.

“It’s great that there are two new applications from Long Island, particularly with that region’s focus on biotechnology,” Lackman said during Wednesday’s meeting. “These are two great schools with two great applications.”

The Start-Up NY program has come under fire from critics who say it costs too much for the actual economic benefits it has delivered – primarily, paltry job-creation numbers, despite the establishment of dozens of tax-free zones, the participation of nearly 200 companies (which have committed to creating more than 4,000 new jobs) and the expenditure of millions of state advertising dollars.

But anyone who understands “how innovation economies are grown and how entrepreneurial ecosystems are formed” knows “this is a long-term play,” according to Lesko.

“We’re talking about startup companies,” the executive dean noted. “By definition, you’re not going to see large job numbers in the first few years, so this is all expected.

“Any successful effort involves an initial investment of capital,” Lesko added. “In the long term, programs like Start-Up NY will yield the job numbers everybody anticipates.”

The Start-Up NY Approval Board also took care of some housekeeping at Wednesday’s meeting, naming John Maggiore, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s policy director, as its new chairman. Maggiore previously served as chief of staff to former Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy and as Cuomo’s director of regional affairs.