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Expert: New York must up incentives for small business

Emma Jacobs
Binghamton and other upstate cities hope incubator graduates will add some needed economic activity.

Business Incubator Association President, David Hochman  paid a visit to the struggling upstate city of Binghamton last Thursday. His message: New York's strategies for nurturing small businesses need work. 

Hochman, a consultant in technology-based economic development, formerly of New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology (the New Jersey equivalent of NYSTAR) entered the world of tech start-ups in the 1980s. Since that time, he says, the whole economic development equation has evolved: “Anybody who thinks they're going to be recruiting large, single-tenant headquarters operations to any region is dreaming these days."

Speaking to an audience comprised mostly of Southern Tier economic development and university officials, the business incubator proponent presented around the corner from the incubator central to Binghamton's efforts to grow economic activity from scratch.

Usually, small businesses are first to hire in a depressed economy. This time around, they're not, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Only 8% of business owners plan to increase staff, says the National Federation of Independent Business's Optimism Index, released in September. By contrast, 31% of large firms plan to hire, according to the Business Roundtable CEO Economic Outlook Survey of leading U.S. companies, also released last month.

But Hochman suggested small business can still be a force for good, in the right climate. He said New York should be leveraging new resources to support them, including providing greater resources and support to businesses in nonprofit incubators. Hochman pointed to regional assets, including the financing available in New York City. He also said state government needs to provide more help for small business, to bring development assistance on par with what's being offered in other states.

Bloomberg Businessweek has the story of a relocation of the small high-tech firm of Adam Rousselle, who considered several locations on the Eastern Seaboard before settling on Vermont.

Utility Risk Management will benefit from an estimated $380,000 in cash incentives through the Vermont Employment Growth Incentive program. Rousselle says he can get up to $5,000 per employee each year to train them in specific skills his customers want. And, he says, he can offer lower salaries than he needed to in Bucks County and still be competitive in the labor market.

Hochman argues incubators can help to provide reliable support for small businesses locally, and also had a lot to say in support of State Senate bill 7048/AA11616, sponsored by Senator Bill Stachowski of Buffalo and the 58th district, who has since lost his primary race for reelection. The Senate bill, which would have provided more dependable funding streams for incubator operations, keeping costs predictably low for startups, is now in limbo, according to Hochman.

New York State government is off for Columbus Day today, so we'll have to wait to bring you more detail on this legislation in the coming days and weeks.

But Hochman and government officials described the overall legislative climate for economic development as generally uncertain, as the third administrative overhaul in four years under the new governor will bring in new heads of redevelopment authorities, new programs, and new and different funding opportunities.

You can listen to our story here.

Former WRVO/Central New York reporter for the Innovation Trail.
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