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College Seeks Entrepreneurs to Start Businesses on Campus

College Seeks Entrepreneurs to Start Businesses on Campus


Visitors know they can do a lot on the SUNY Cortland campus: Cheer a sports team, attend a performance or presentation, experience Dowd Gallery.

Now, they may also be able to turn an entrepreneurial dream into reality.

SUNY Cortland is looking for partners that complement its academic specialties to establish a new or expanding business on campus through the START-UP NY program.

Qualified businesses could operate for 10 years without paying most state or local taxes, including income taxes for both the new business and its individual employees.

Since it was created in 2013 the state’s START-UP NY program has launched more than 200 businesses in partnership with colleges, creating more than 4,500 jobs.

SUNY Cortland, which received approval for its START-UP plan last year, hopes to similarly boost the local economy, offer new learning opportunities for its students and create employment options in the region.

“The power of this program is it can increase local jobs,” said David Duryea, the College’s vice president for finance and management. “If you look at the statistics, most big businesses started as small businesses. You go back to Microsoft and what the founders did starting out in a garage outside Stanford University. Some of these high-tech giants started up as small businesses in Silicon Valley.”

SUNY Cortland is offering a total of 8,700 square feet of vacant space in two College buildings, to qualifying entrepreneurs and start-up companies that can enrich the quality of SUNY’s mission of teaching, research and public service in areas ranging from art to athletic training.

To find the right fit, SUNY Cortland will work with the Cortland County Business Development Corporation and Industrial Development Agency (BDC-IDA) to recruit businesses that would align with both SUNY Cortland’s mission and the needs of the Cortland area. Identified sectors that might align with both

SUNY Cortland and local strengths include:

  • High tech manufacturing, including medical products
  • Internet publishing and broadcasting
  • Information technologies, including advanced computer and electronics, software applications and website design
  • Life sciences, biotechnology, medical technology and bio-pharmaceutical
  • Light manufacturing and skilled assembly
  • Agribusiness, utilizing local products such as dairy
  • Environmental sciences, environmental systems, analytical laboratories and renewable energy
  • Integrated electronics, electronics assembly, manufacturing and packing
  • Geographic Information Technology services and consulting
  • Professional sports teams, athletics

Any partnership with the College would either include the creation of a new company, the use of the College to expand an existing business with new jobs at the location, or the movement of a company’s operations and personnel from outside New York state.

In exchange, participating companies are freed from paying all New York state business taxes and most local taxes for a decade. Also, most of their employees for the duration will be responsible for zero state income taxes, an economic development incentive that is not offered anywhere in the country except New York state.

The clock starts on those benefits when the new company or the expansion plan is set up, so these employers who sign on this year will enjoy the tax savings at least through 2027, Duryea noted.

The College is not allowed to consider applicants in retail sales, professional services like lawyers, or restaurants or bars. And a company whose proposal would simply move their employees from one place within New York state to another won’t be eligible.

As a starting point, the College is making available roughly 6,500 square feet of space in Winchell Hall, located at 31 Water St. on the main campus; and approximately 2,300 square feet of space in the McDonald Building, situated at 60 Tompkins St. in the city of Cortland.

“I think the key is that it’s really not about the location, although the plan identifies two areas on campus — Winchell Hall and McDonald Building,” Duryea said. “We can always amend the plan.”

Beyond this ideal small business start-up office space, Duryea said, the College encourages entrepreneurs to help identify existing locations on campus property.

“They could build an entire building in an empty place on campus,” Duryea said.

Or participants could own or lease up to 200,000 square feet of property that is not currently taxed located anywhere within one mile’s radius of the border of the sprawling main campus or one of its satellite holdings, including its Main Street SUNY Cortland facilities in the city’s downtown. The program, however, cannot remove taxable properties from local tax rolls.

Non-profit sites or properties that a government has removed from the tax rolls don’t necessarily need to be located close to campus to benefit. If a news business has a strong enough academic partnership with the college, meshing with College research specialties or providing relevant learning experiences for students, it could participate from far beyond the Cortland city limits.

“Say, we have a Cortland alum in Jamestown who wants to work with Cortland,” Duryea said. “He’s got some facilities that are off the tax rolls and he could work with Jamestown Community College but he really wants to work with us.”

Another example would be moving the summer training program of a professional sport team from another state to New York through the Cortland Start-up NY program, he noted.

A four-member campus committee will be tasked with assuring that companies chosen to participate in the program meet its criteria.

“We need to enhance our academic programs and mission,” Duryea explained.

Potentially, students enrolled in a wide variety of majors at SUNY Cortland can engage in a high quality hands-on education in a wide variety of ways. Some examples:

  • Art and Art History Department and Communication Studies Department majors versed in media design could benefit from and contribute to publishing and design firms, advertising agencies and publishing houses.
  • Biochemistry and biomedical sciences majors could work well with biotechnology firms for laboratory experiences, laboratory standards, environmental toxin testing, food processing and safety and research.
  • Communication studies students could offer radio and television production writing, editing, management, public affairs and public relations experiences to media industries.
  • Business economics majors could benefit through internships in an enormous array of fields, ranging from software and technology companies to financial firms and global marketers.
  • Geography Department students majoring in geographic information systems can help agribusiness corporations, outdoor recreation companies, research institutes, insurance companies, television and radio stations that also may include GIS mapping opportunities.
  • Geology students would bring value to energy firms, laboratory water sampling and testing companies, consulting firms and supply companies.
  • Recreation, parks and leisure studies majors – as well as those enrolled in health, sociology or economics – could collaborate with a variety of businesses on assessments and data analysis.
  • Kinesiology students could engage in basic clinical experiences for companies involved with physical or occupational therapy and related product development.
  • Physics majors could benefit from collaborating with engineering and renewable energy firms to co-plan and design models for companies to transition from fossil fuels to alternative renewable energy sources.
  • Students enrolled in sport studies and sport management could learn as interns for professional teams or marketers for athletic products.

In reality, the list is limited only to the program guidelines and an entrepreneur’s imagination.

As part of the START-UP program, SUNY Cortland would also welcome businesses to provide guest speakers in classes and panel presentations, serve on College advisory boards, provide consulting opportunities for faculty, sponsor undergraduate research and scholarship opportunities, and offer expertise to campus programs, faculty and administration in the areas of their expertise.

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