SUNY Cobleskill's Ski Lodge could become Schoharie County's first START-UP NY tax-free zone.
A law signed into legislation in June 2013 by Governor Andrew Cuomo created START-UP NY as a way to encourage economic growth in distressed upstate areas by drawing start-up or expanding companies or companies relocating from out-of-state to space on SUNY campuses.
Companies that participate in START-UP NY don't pay taxes for 10 years and employees making up to $200,000 a year don't pay state income taxes.
There are restrictions against the types of businesses than can participate; retail and wholesale businesses and restaurants are ineligible as are businesses that would compete with existing businesses outside the tax-free zone.
Each of the SUNYs-including Cobleskill-is in the process of putting together a plan for state approval.
Deadline for public comment on the process is March 31.
Jason Evans, an assistant manager of agriculture business management, is handling the process for SUNY Cobleskill.
Mr. Evans said they began with identifying available space on campus and quickly came up with the Ski Lodge, which sits on 6.25 acres of land and hasn't been used by the college for the last few years.
Mr. Evans also said the college is "extremely open" to adding off-campus properties to the list-most notably the former Guilford Mills, but there may be others-as the process continues.
It's up to the individual campuses to set additional restrictions on the type of businesses best suited for their particular site; because of its location and environs, Mr. Evans said SUNY Cobleskill sees the Ski Lodge as being used as a community event or conference space or for environmental education or research.
The college will retain ownership of its adjacent properties, he said, some of which are used by Fisheries & Wildlife and other SUNY programs.
"The educational experience for our students remains our number one priority," he said. "We won't do anything to jeopardize that. That's why we settled on this type of use for the Ski Lodge. It could be a great fit."
Adding off-campus properties to Cobleskill's START-UP NY list is something that would be done by amending the plan and Mr. Evans said he can envision properties being added in a couple of ways; businesses interested in seeing a particular property added might approach Schoharie County's IDA, which would then approach the college, or the county might approach the college directly.
"I think this community has so many untapped opportunities, so many ways to make a partnership like this work," he said. "We would never forge a partnership that would work against them."
Village of Cobleskill Mayor Linda Holmes learned of the Ski Lodge's inclusion on the START-UP NY list only recently and trustees weren't sure how to react.
"It's not necessarily a bad deal," said Trustee Howard Burt, "but considering the state of the New York economy, I don't see how the state can use tax-exempt companies and have their employees be tax-exempt without realizing someone will be footing the bill. Someone has to pay taxes."
Mayor Holmes said she plans to meet with SUNY Cobleskill Acting President Debra Thatcher on the plan.
The college is also looking for community feedback.
Deadline is March 31.
Emails can be sent to StartUpNY@cobleskill.edu.
Letters can be sent to START-UP NY, Office of the President, 106 Suffolk Circle, Cobleskill, NY 12043.
More information on START-UP NY is available online at Startup-ny.com