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SUNY Fredonia to play key role in new era of economic development

A new initiative of New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has the potential to attract entrepreneurs and business veterans, which may even include alumni, back to Fredonia.

“Start-Up NY” is an unprecedented economic development plan designed to entice new and existing businesses to move to, return to, or expand within New York State — and SUNY campuses like Fredonia are at its heart.

"Start-Up NY is a transformational opportunity for SUNY Fredonia and our community," noted Dr. Kearns.

"The plan calls for the creation of dozens of tax-free zones across the state for new and expanding businesses. These businesses will be allowed to operate 100 percent tax-free for 10 years. No business, corporate, state or local taxes, sales and property taxes, or franchise fees will be imposed upon them.

The initiative will transform SUNY campuses and other university communities across the state into tax-free zones, giving businesses access to the many resources of New York’s world class higher education institutions, including industry experts and advanced research laboratories.

In addition, students and faculty will gain increased access to real-world, cutting-edge business experiences.

Governor Cuomo called the initiative one of the most ambitious economic development programs New York has seen in decades. “In a tax-free environment, no one can match what New York has to offer,” he said at an October press conference. “We are leveraging our world-class SUNY system…to partner with new businesses, providing direct access to advanced research, development resources, experts in high-tech and other industries — and all with zero taxes for 10 whole years.”

To be eligible for the program, which formally launched on Jan. 1, a business must either be a new company in New York State, an out-of-state company that is relocating to New York, or, an expansion of a company that already has employees in New York and is capable of demonstrating that it is creating new jobs (as opposed to moving existing jobs from elsewhere in the state). New companies cannot be in direct competition with existing area businesses, and those in the retail, wholesale, restaurant and hospitality industries, as well as a variety of service-based professions (medical, legal, accounting, financial, etc.) are also ineligible.

Each campus has been charged with developing a plan that best fits the needs of that university and its surrounding community. At Fredonia, that plan is being led by Dr. Kevin Kearns, who was appointed to the newly created position of Vice President for Engagement and Economic Development in mid-2013. Among his many duties, Dr. Kearns is leading Fredonia’s Start-Up NY Committee that includes the mayors of Fredonia and Dunkirk as well as the Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency (IDA). It also includes members of SUNY Fredonia’s College Council, University Senate, and other campus leaders who will review opportunities before they are presented to President Virginia Horvath and her Cabinet.

Once each campus plan has been approved (which Kearns expects to happen in Fredonia’s case by the end of the January), companies will apply thorough SUNY’s Administrative Offices in Albany; only companies vetted and endorsed by SUNY may enter the program.

“Start-Up NY is a transformational opportunity for SUNY Fredonia and our community,” Kearns explained. “The tax benefits will provide the catalyst for economic recovery in our area.”

Companies accepted into the program must be a good fit with the college, enhancing its academic mission in some way. They do not have to directly relate to a campus’ academic program offerings, but they must at least connect by offering something beneficial, such as student internships or faculty collaboration or research opportunities. In addition, regional cooperation is being encouraged, and Fredonia is working with Jamestown Community College, Alfred State College, the University at Buffalo and others to determine the best matches — which also could lead to an influx of expertise that university leaders hope will lead to new and revised academic programs.

“Start-Up NY not only has the potential to transform our region’s economy, but it will also foster an enhanced commitment to our community engagement and experiential learning,” added Kearns.

Ultimately, however, the program is all about creating jobs, and Kearns is energized at the prospects of catalyzing employment opportunities for Fredonia graduates who wish to stay in the area and improve the quality of life for the region’s residents.

“We also hope to attract alumni back to the region so that they can reconnect with the university and contribute to our renaissance,” he said.

To learn more, visit, or contact Dr. Kearns at

posted @ Tuesday, January 28, 2014 12:32 PM by Jonathan Woolson

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