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Empire Zones Reform, High Tech Items Take Center Stage in New York

January 16, 2004

New York Governor George Pataki, in his 10th State of the State Address last week, outlined a variety of initiatives designed to further promote tech-based economic development (TBED) in the state. From refining the state's Empire Zones program and strengthening the manufacturing sector to making New York a leader in renewable energy and academic research, the governor's agenda is not short on TBED items.

To strengthen the state's Empire Zones, a target of much criticism lately, Gov. Pataki proposes revising it in such a way that reduces the potential for abuse. A comprehensive interagency reporting system, new methods to advance significant economic development projects with "substantial job-creating potential" and accountability measures would be undertaken. Economically challenged communities targeted for redevelopment also would benefit under the governor's plan, which would extend the tax credit program by five years to July 31, 2009.

Gov. Pataki also reaffirmed his commitment to enhancing high tech in New York, announcing a series of initiatives collectively known as the second phase of the state’s high-tech strategy, the first phase being the $250 million Centers of Excellence program launched two years ago [see the May 24, 2002 SSTI Weekly Digest]. The new initiatives include:

  • Establishing a High-Tech Council comprised of academic and business leaders, to be led by Dr. Harold Varmus, Nobel prize winner, past NIH Director and head of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. This Council would be tasked with furthering partnerships established through the governor’s Center of Excellence program;
  • Helping biotech companies flourish by providing access to capital and facilities, particularly in New York City, Westchester and Long Island. The governor said his executive budget will provide funds for critical wet-lab space to enable institutions in such places as North Shore, Stony Brook and Rochester to advance their research, development and commercialization efforts. The governor's budget also is expected to provide a new tax benefit for entrepreneurs to access capital and create more jobs;
  • Creating a High Technology Commercialization Center in Binghamton to spur technology transfer;
  • Enhancing cybersecurity in Utica-Rome;
  • Creating a new College of Nanotechnology in Albany at the Center of Excellence in Nanoelectronics, in conjunction with the University at Albany and State University of New York; and,
  • Creating a Harriman Campus Redevelopment Corporation to attract high tech companies to Albany.

To promote research and development in renewable and clean energy sources, Gov. Pataki announced New York would expand its core mission at the Center of Excellence in Environmental Systems in Syracuse. The governor said he is directing the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to create a partnership among the Syracuse Center, state government and the private sector to strengthen the state’s biofuels industry, as well.

"The worldwide market for clean energy technologies is expected to grow to nearly $100 billion a year over the next 10 years," said Gov. Pataki. "I want New York companies to be the major beneficiaries of this emerging market."

Additionally, the governor said he would submit legislation introducing a five-point plan to boost manufacturing-based businesses in New York. In brief, the five-point plan includes creating job-training assistance programs and a new Manufacturing Assistance Program, reforming tax law to give an advantage to in-state manufacturers, improving the state's Power for Jobs program, and reforming its workers' compensation system. The Power for Jobs program is aimed at providing low-cost power to New York manufacturers.

Gov. Pataki's comments did not outline how his requests would be funded, given the state's continuing fiscal challenges. The governor's State of the State Address is available in its entirety at http://www.state.ny.us/governor/.

New York