By Zephyr Teachout
Last month Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo stood tall in Buffalo hailing the success of START-UP New York. His economic development policy, he said, was drawing to the city eight businesses, which intended to invest $50 million and create 400 new jobs.
In the short term, it seems, START-UP New York is a win for Buffalo. In the long term, though, the governor’s program does nothing to tackle the real problems stifling business growth and job creation in our state.
START-UP New York works by creating tax-free zones on or near public universities for startups and companies relocating from other states. These businesses are excused from paying sales taxes, property taxes or corporate taxes for a decade. Even their employees get a pass on paying state income tax for up to 10 years.
A real economic development policy would address root issues. One of these is the lack of fast and reliable Internet, an essential service for the 21st century. Yet today, large swaths of New York don’t have the broadband infrastructure needed to be competitive in the modern economy. A smart innovation policy would push to invigorate competition among cable monopolies so they compete to build out infrastructure across the state.
A real economic development policy would promote local manufacturing as well as family restaurants and independent retailers. Today we allow too many of these businesses to be bought up or squeezed out before they have a chance to prove their products and people in open competition.
Smart manufacturing policy would aim to help companies like Sherrill Manufacturing, which is struggling to make high-quality flatware in the factory abandoned by Oneida, or to make better use of Manhattan’s Fashion District, where a lack of investment in refurbishing old buildings stunts the renaissance of this major center of craft work.
What local makers and manufacturers need more than tax breaks is access to credit and open markets. A smart administration would use our state antitrust laws in instances where the federal government fails to do that job, as well as push banks to lend more to startup companies, improve our bankruptcy laws and ensure that intellectual property laws serve the startup rather than the goliath.
New York can do better than short-term tax breaks. We need an innovation policy that stimulates new investment and sustainable growth.
Zephyr Teachout is a Democratic candidate for New York governor.