Op-Ed: Start-Up NY Weakens, Business Anxiety Remains Strong

Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb

Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb

By Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb

When it comes to the business of Albany, it is essential to draw a distinction between rhetoric and reality. In no area is that more apparent than the state’s economic-development efforts.

Lofty promises, theatrical presentations, and gimmick initiatives haven’t done enough to cure what ails New York State’s notoriously sour business climate. While some in Albany are quick to claim the environment is improving, the voices that carry far more weight come from those who face the challenges every day.


A recent poll released by the Siena Research Institute tells a more accurate story than much of what we’ve heard from the state’s economic-development officials.

A survey of Upstate CEOs indicated that the vast majority are skeptical about what’s being done to improve conditions in New York. The poll showed 61 percent feel that Albany is doing a poor job of creating a successful business environment. In addition, 84 percent of respondents do not believe state government will improve the business climate in the coming year.

As the only legislative leader who has owned and run a company, I understand the pessimism from Upstate CEOs. For too long, New York’s taxes, fees and regulations have put our state at a competitive disadvantage and limited the ability of job creators to succeed. We don’t need another economic-development gimmick that rewards a select few. New York needs a commitment to permanent policy changes and eliminating costly burdens that keep our economic environment among the worst in the country.


START-UP NY_CuomoAmong the numerous proposals in the governor’s Executive Budget is a total re-boot of his signature economic development measure. What was once billed as a “game-changing,” “transformative” initiative, START-UP NY, has failed to live up to its promise. Despite $53 million in taxpayer-funded advertising, the measure has produced a paltry 408 jobs. Now, as part of the governor’s Executive Budget proposal, START-UP NY is undergoing a dramatic overhaul that even includes a name change.

The “Excelsior Business Program” will have significantly lower expectations than START-UP NY once did. The rebranded effort requires participating businesses to create only one net new job in its first five years of operation. It is only available to businesses with 25 employees or fewer. It scales back public reporting requirements.

This is a dramatic shift from START-UP NY’s initial rollout, when the governor claimed that, “companies are lining up for the launch of START-UP NY.” And it’s curious that a program that Empire State Development Commissioner Howard Zemsky declared “a success” would need such a major reorganization if it was truly working.

A new coat of paint isn’t going to save START-UP NY, and piecemeal programs won’t make a dent in the state’s punishing business environment. We need permanent fixes and sweeping policy changes. Most importantly, we need to move toward dealing with the reality instead of offering more rhetoric.

Contact Assemblyman Kolb at kolbb@assembly.state.ny.us, on Facebook and on Twitter.

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