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What you need to know for 01/20/2018

Area colleges nominate sites for tax-free program

Area colleges nominate sites for tax-free program

A Montgomery County industrial park, a 60-acre plot of land across from Fulton-Montgomery Community

A Montgomery County industrial park, a 60-acre plot of land across from Fulton-Montgomery Community College and a former textile mill in Cobleskill all could become tax-free zones under the governor’s Start-Up NY program.

SUNY institutions around the Capital Region and Mohawk Valley identified a handful of properties last year to be included in the zones, places where businesses can locate and pay no taxes for 10 years. Since then, they have targeted a few more sites for inclusion in the program, which is aimed at startups, out-of-state companies looking to relocate or local companies looking to expand. Some industries are excluded from the program — retail, restaurant, hospitality and medical practices, among others.

Last fall, Fulton-Montgomery Community College was sure it wanted the former Tryon juvenile detention facility along County Route 107 in Johnstown to be listed as a tax-free zone. Local officials had been trying to transform it into a business park since it was shut down in 2011.

FMCC has since identified two additional sites it believes would make ideal tax-free zones: 166 acres known as the Florida Park Extension on Route 5S in Amsterdam, and 60 acres the college foundation just purchased at the corner of Route 67 and Bendick Corners Road in the town of Amsterdam. This last site sits directly across from the FMCC campus. Because the college owns it, it wouldn’t be counted against the 200,000 square feet of property that each campus is allowed under Start-Up NY.

“This is all land that’s really prime for development,” said FMCC President Dustin Swanger. “They were areas where the counties were looking to develop anyway, so this would just sweeten the pot.”

Start-Up NY businesses must be within a one-mile radius of a SUNY campus. The Florida Park Extension site is about six miles from FMCC, so the college is applying for a waiver.

“They told us that waivers will definitely be available,” said Swanger. “If it makes sense, they’ll make them available because some of these places are industrial parks that are already shovel-ready. A company could move in quickly. Why create something completely new just because it’s close to the college?”

Several businesses have already expressed interest in occupying a tax-free zone near FMCC, Swanger said. Two of them were startups, one an agribusiness and one that makes mechanical products.

The college will submit a detailed Start-Up NY plan to its Board of Trustees later this month, before it goes to Empire State Development for final review.

The tax-free initiative gave SUNY Cobleskill a new way to market a ski lodge that had fallen out of use over the years. The college included the site, also known as the Fred Bennett Recreational Center, in a draft Start-Up NY plan submitted to SUNY in December. This plan is under review by “community and college stakeholders” for a 30-day comment period before it goes to Empire State Development for final approval.

“We currently have one campus property included in the plan and, to date, no businesses have expressed interest in that site,” said Jason Evans, assistant professor of agriculture business management at SUNY Cobleskill, in an email last week. “However, the college is excited about the potential to ultimately include off-campus properties on our plan (via plan amendments), as there are several sites proximal to campus that may be particularly well-suited to business start-ups or expansions.”

They’re looking at one property in particular — a former textile mill about a mile from campus. Guilford Mills once occupied the more than 400,000-square-foot building, where it produced intimate apparel, swimwear fabrics and lace. The company shut down its Cobleskill operation in 2001.

Other colleges in the Capital Region are at various stages of the Start-Up NY approval process.

The University at Albany received state approval earlier this week to include four sites near its campus in the program.

Schenectady County Community College has submitted its plan to SUNY and is now in the 30-day comment period, where it will gather feedback from local stakeholders. The college hasn’t identified any additional sites for the program. Four properties it’s currently looking to include are the old YMCA at 13 State St., the former Northway Auto Club building next to campus, empty space in Center City and a building at 201 State St. that was donated to the college.

Empire State College in Saratoga Springs has listed the former Grand Union at 111 West Ave. for inclusion in the program.

It has already submitted its proposal to ESD for final approval and is waiting to hear back.

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