Business is booming in the Empire State. From the bustling streets of Manhattan to the silent forests of the North Country, companies of all sizes are taking advantage of an increasingly healthy business climate – and bringing new prosperity to an economically diverse state.
The New York State government is working hard to create a strong business environment. “What is taking place here is so exciting,” says Erin Cole, Senior Vice President for Global New York. “It is very different from what took place in the past. We have had an on-time, balanced budget five years in a row, we have one of the lowest middle class tax rates since the 1950s, as well as one of the lowest corporate tax rates since 1968. For manufacturers, in many cases, it is almost tax-free.”
A number of new, leading edge industries are gaining ground in this welcoming environment, including biomedical, life sciences, pharmaceuticals, and optics and photonics. “Those types of industries are really booming in New York State right now.” And, one of New York’s most important traditional industries is enjoying new growth. “The whole agricultural sector is a huge industry for New York State. It really runs the gamut, from maple syrup, to dairy and meat, to fruits and vegetables produced on our local farms, on through food processing, and into the state’s growing craft beverage scene,” Ms. Cole explains. Mom and pop startups within the sector are finding new footholds, leading to the reappearance of what was once a New York staple. “The state used to be home to hundreds of breweries back at the turn of the 20th Century. It was a huge industry sector for us and at some point they collapsed and went away. And now we have this incredible resurgence of craft breweries, cideries, and wineries.”
The state government is eager to give the state’s startups – from biomedical research firms to breweries – the help they need to succeed. “These are small, innovative companies,” Ms. Cole points out, and the right support can ensure that they grow and prosper – and give back by creating more jobs. START-UP NY is one program specifically created to give innovative businesses a much-needed boost. Designed for businesses in the advanced manufacturing, biotech, life sciences, tech, and electronics sectors, as well as several other industries, the program gives new and expanding businesses of all sizes the opportunity to operate tax-free for 10 years on or near university or college campuses in New York State. By partnering with these institutions, businesses also gain access to advanced research laboratories, development resources, and industry experts. More than 170 companies are already taking advantage of the innovative program. “START-UP NY has been a game changer for us,” says Ms. Cole.
New York State’s small businesses also need support making a splash internationally. That is where the new Global NY initiatives come in. “Our office is focused on increasing New York State’s global footprint and providing New York businesses with the tools and assistance to actually go global,” Ms. Cole explains. Take the state’s prosperous food processing industry, for instance. From applesauce to craft ciders, entrepreneurs are taking raw products grown in New York, adding value, and looking for international buyers. “There is demand in many different countries around the world.” But, “these are small companies. They need our assistance to start exporting on their own, especially in small volumes, [which] can be very expensive.”
The $35 million Global NY Fund has been set aside to help small and medium sized New York companies tap into global markets and increase their exports. “The idea is that, if they grow their export sales, then they are growing their business and stay in New York State and continue to add jobs.” The fund includes $10 million in grants, enabling eligible businesses to utilize up to $25,000 apiece to develop export capacity. Specifically, these funds might be used for anything from developing marketing plans and translating company websites to taking care of product adaptation and market certification.
Empire State Development will provide an additional $25 million in loans to small businesses that are having trouble accessing credit but want to expand into new markets. The organization will also be working in partnership with over 20 private lenders in the state to leverage at least $50 million of additional small business lending. In addition, New York’s partnership with the Federal Export/Import (Ex-Im) Bank will connect creditworthy small businesses with short-term loans of up to $500,000 for export financing.
Global NY’s support also includes a network of contract representatives around the world. Currently, the organization boasts representatives in Canada, the United Kingdom, Israel, and China, with additional representatives planned for Mexico and South Africa. “Those contract representatives are our eyes and ears on the ground, both for FDI and for identifying export opportunities,” Ms. Cole says. “We work with New York State companies to put them in touch with these contract representatives and then the people on the ground do a lot of the work for them.” This work includes everything from market research to identifying distributors. “That is a fantastic way for the companies to connect with the global network that they wouldn’t necessarily have access to otherwise.”
Global NY also provides support to foreign businesses looking to invest in New York State. “We have some new tools and services and programs that are going to be offered through Global NY that will help our economic development organizations attract the FDI.”
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo launched Global NY in October 2014. “It is directly based on the governor’s interest in expanding New York State’s global footprint and trying to help more small and medium sized business start to export,” Ms. Cole explains. “We have a lot of larger companies and multinationals here in New York State – we take pride in that – but we’re focusing on helping small and medium sized companies grow and stay in the state.”
Governor Cuomo’s administration is also focused on improving New York’s infrastructure in order to fully support the needs of growing businesses. “New York State is one of the older states in the country. Some of our infrastructure is quite old, so we are investing in the current infrastructure as well as investing in new infrastructure.” This investment will include improvements to bridges, roads, rails, and airports. “Investing in transportation infrastructure is clearly a priority at this time and greatly benefits global trade,” Ms. Cole points out.
Internet access is getting much needed infrastructure attention as well. “New York State is quite rural and broadband hasn’t reached everybody. So the governor is very focused on building up that infrastructure so we have 21st century access.” Access to broadband is particularly critical for small, agricultural based businesses located in the state’s countryside. For example, “a farmer that is trying to export to China, which happens frequently: ecommerce is the way for them to go, but you need to have a reliable Internet system to do that.”
The past few years have seen New York’s business climate improve dramatically – and the state continues to push forward. “We want to build on the success that [we have had] under Governor Cuomo where the business environment has gotten better,” says Ms. Cole. “We continue to be focused on that through the grant program, through START-UP NY, and by reaching out to companies so that they are aware that these programs are available.”
Maintaining a low tax environment will also continue to be a priority. “Having a balanced budget, keeping spending in check and keeping taxes down are all critically important.” The state is well positioned to continue meeting these goals and maintaining a business environment that will keep New York State strong. “We are moving in the right direction.”