Senate proposes $400 million expansion to state's Empire Zone program
Saying that economic development is the Senate's top budget priority, the Senate Majority today proposed a $400 million expansion of the state's Empire Zone program.
The investment would create 40 new Empire Zones, meaning that every county in the state would have a zone, the Senate said in a release.
"Many of the Empire Zones upstate are operating at full capacity," said Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno. "The popularity of the program is so widespread that counties without zones are now at a competitive disadvantage for attracting businesses and creating jobs.
"Our plan would put every county on equal footing by authorizing new zones for counties that do not currently have, one authorizing the expansion of 39 existing upstate zones, with provisions for the expansion of 13 downstate zones as well."
The Business Council hailed the proposal.
"The Empire Zone program has been a roaring success, the envy of the economic development profession in 49 other states," said Business Council President Daniel B. Walsh. "We salute the Senate for its commitment to strengthening this program and bringing parity in the program to all 62 counties in New York."
Background on Empire Zones: Empire Zones are regions in which employers can receive powerful incentives, especially tax credits, for investments that create jobs. Most are located in economically distressed urban and rural areas. Zones can be designated by counties or municipalities.
There are 52 zones statewide; 16 of 62 counties do not have a zone. Once a state authorizes a county or municipality to create a zone, these communities can establish zones in a single location or subdivide the zone to encourage development in different locations.
Empire Zone benefits are considered powerful job-creation incentives. Many of the highest-profile business investments in the last several years have been facilitated by Empire Zone incentives. Examples include IBM's plans to build a $2.5 billion chip-fab plant and create 1,000 new jobs.
The Senate proposal: The Senate said its plan would:
- Authorize creation of 40 new Empire Zones to be designated by counties. These new zones would be created in counties with no county-designated zone or in counties with no more than two locally-designated zones. These zones could include noncontiguous areas.
- Expand the authorized area of 39 existing upstate zones from two square miles to 2.5 square miles, effective Jan. 1, 2003.
- Authorize, upon approval of the Governor, the expansion of the 13 downstate zones designated before 2001.
- Extend Empire Zone tax incentives to projects that retain jobs when there is a substantial capital investment and it is determined that many jobs could be lost without that investment.
- Permit facilities financed and owned by Industrial Development Agencies to remain eligible for incentives under the program.
The Senate has previously proposed a $530 million investment in research and development in biotechnology through its Gen*NY*sis program. That plan includes a proposed $25 million in tax incentives to create eight Gen*NY*sis zones to encourage economic development specifically in biotechnology and biomedical R&D through similar credits and incentives.