STONE RIDGE – Start-Up NY, the initiative to pull new businesses into the state and match them up with colleges (and students), has been quietly working in Ulster County for some time now. Donald Katt, the president of SUNY Ulster who recently announced his retirement next year, said that "We've met with fifteen prospective business people, some from outside New York, doing exactly what Start-Up New York was intended for."
Start Up NY is an "accelerator" initiative for jobs, designed to spark business and entrepreneurialism on a large scale. The focus is particularly set on upstate and the State University of New York campus system. However, private colleges and universities are also included, and college towns and campuses are seen as the framework for the program to attract high-tech and other startups, as well as venture capital and new business from all over the world.
Under the program, startups or business expansions coming into the state can operate tax-free for ten years if they move into a space within the parameters outlined. Being located within a mile of a SUNY campus, including whatever extensions it decides upon, is one way to do this.
"There are already firms starting up in Buffalo and Binghamton, related to their scientific and technology oriented colleges," said Katt. "Here in Ulster County, ours will be a community-based startup program."
Regarding the tax breaks, Katt is enthusiastic.
"This is the first time they're including a ten year break on personal income tax," he explained. "I think this is a terrific idea. My response to criticism of it is that people were fleeing the state because of the taxes. Overall, I think it's going to do what the governor set out to do."
Start-Up NY is specifically targeting businesses and startups in clean energy development, in bioscience, and in advanced materials manufacturing, which can involve new alloys and polymers, for instance. Some business areas not allowed access to Start-Up NY include retail and wholesale businesses, restaurants, law and accounting firms, medical and dental practices, real estate management companies and brokers, retail banking, hospitality and utilities and conventional energy production.
In Ulster, Katt added, "We had one company looking for a new U.S. site for a plant. They will be relocating in the Town of Ulster; pretty large company, too. They expect 120 employees when they're fully up and running. There are three others, much smaller, that are ready to go. When fully up and operating that will mean about 75 employees so right there we have close to 200 jobs in Ulster County, which is just terrific considering we're just getting started and all this only began on January 1 this year."
Katt noted that the satellite campus for SUNY Ulster at the former IBM plant in Kingston has been crucial.
"One of the requirements is that the site be within a mile of a campus or a satellite site," he noted. "SUNY Ulster's Extension site is in the Town of Ulster so that brings the Tech City site, the former IBM plant, in range."
As well as the old Sophie Finn Elementary School in Midtown Kingston, across from Benedictine Hospital, and a new effort taking place in the Walmart complex of big box stores just off Route 9W at Frank Sottile Boulevard in the Town of Ulster.
Katt also pointed out that SUNY Ulster's curriculum is part of the calculation involved in what it's doing to attract businesses.
"One of the most important criteria is that a business matches up with the SUNY Ulster curriculum," he said. "We have a manufacturing certificate program. We also have graphic arts and technology as an industry cluster we might partner with."
And what does the college want?
"Well, we don't want to run your business or sit next to the CEO. What we ask is that the business allows students to intern or gain educational experience," he said. "We also ask that where it's appropriate they might sit on our curriculum advisory council. Thirdly, if they have the desire they might serve as visiting lecturers and even faculty members."
Donald Katt joined the staff at SUNY Ulster in 1968, and has served fifteen years as president of the fifty-one year old community college.