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'Excelsior' program replaces Empire Zone

TRI-COUNTY AREA—Excelsior will replace the Empire Zone as the state’s economic incentive program, but some view it as not as helpful.
“It won’t be as useful as the Empire Zone,“ said Ryan Hallings, coordinator for the Finger Lakes Economic Development Center. “But it’s better than no program at all.”
Some of the changes between the Empire Zone, which stopped accepting applications June 30, and Excelsior include qualifications for businesses to be eligible for benefits. Hallings said those include the number of jobs a business in a certain sector will create.
Kelsey Jones, director of Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development (SCOPED), said those include a manufacturing job must create 25 jobs, agriculture must create 10 jobs, and office (like a call center) must create 150 jobs. Hallings said this poses a challenge because, for example, the average manufacturing business in Yates has about five workers.
“It limits smaller projects,” he said. “As a rural area, there aren’t a lot of bigger projects.”
Hallings said the exception to this in Excelsior is the investment track. He explained that the company needs to meet a cost benefit ratio to qualify. However, Hallings said to pursue this, a business must hire at least 50 employees, which few Yates businesses do.
Hallings said the big difference between this new program and the Empire Zone is that that Excelsior does not have zones, excluding parts of the state. He explained Excelsior covers the entire state. Hallings added that all the details of the new program are still being worked out.
Meanwhile, programs that were certified and are getting benefits under the Empire Zone will continue to do so. Hallings said FLEDC got one last business through under the Empire Zone, June 28: Pinckney Hardware. He explained that as long as a business adheres to the Empire Zone requirements, they will continue to receive the benefits until the certification normally ends.




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