It’s hard to recall any time in the last decade or more that a governor has made so many appearances in Buffalo to announce hundreds of new jobs.
But it’s happening, right now, as a result of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s leading effort in providing business tax incentives that dovetail with the state’s colleges and universities while promoting jobs for graduates.
Clasping hands with Liazon CEO Ashok Subramanian, Cuomo casts a well-earned gratified image. Here’s why: Liazon plans to more than quadruple its local workforce, hiring an additional 500 people over the next five years. Such corrections to the work force numbers no one here minds. At all.
Liazon is just one of eight businesses that will expand or locate in New York as a result of Start-Up NY, which creates tax-free areas associated with colleges and universities across the state.
The eight businesses are projected to invest $9.9 million and create an estimated 659 new jobs in tax-free areas sponsored by the University at Buffalo. Liazon, a provider of private online health benefit exchanges, is expected to invest nearly $5 million related to its expansion in the former Fairmont Creamery building at 199 Scott St. in downtown Buffalo.
Liazon was acquired in November by a global consulting company, Towers Watson, which brings ties to the biggest U.S. and global companies. And there’s Start-Up NY.
Subramanian said he had to do “a fair bit of convincing” to persuade Towers Watson to expand in Buffalo. Not everyone appreciates this area’s many attributes. It helps to have a substantial tax-free program. Indeed, it is a game-changer, and one that prevented the expansion from occurring in Texas or Utah.
BAK USA is another business settling in Buffalo and one that will be unique as one of the first tablet PC assemblers in the United States. The company plans to establish a Buffalo facility that is expected to create 100 jobs. BAK is expected to locate in the Compass East development, at 425 Michigan Ave., which has been designated by UB to be a qualified Start-Up NY site. BAK said that it plans to invest $840,000 in the new facility.
This is the second round of the governor’s Start-Up NY news. In June, he announced that 12 businesses will expand or locate in New York as a result of the program.
On top of that, there is the Buffalo Billion initiative and the phenomenal development about to take place at RiverBend in South Buffalo. The governor said he is optimistic that an expanded incentive package will be worked out for Silevo and its planned acquirer, SolarCity. Last November, the state agreed to invest $225 million to develop the RiverBend clean-energy and technology hub on the site of the former Republic Steel plant and Silevo, a California-based manufacturer of high-efficiency solar panels, was one of two companies that agreed to move in to the complex.
Those plans got a huge boost in June when Silevo agreed to be acquired by SolarCity, the nation’s largest installer of residential solar energy systems. It meant expanding the scope of the Buffalo factory, making it five times bigger and creating more jobs – well over 1,000, compared with 475 under Silevo’s original plan.
As Cuomo so keenly observed, once reluctant companies are starting to say, “You know, I’m hearing a lot about Buffalo.”