Legislative Agreement Includes Empire Zones For Yates, Tompkins Counties

George Winner

March 24, 2005

Albany, N.Y.-- State Senator George H. Winner, Jr. (R-C, Elmira) today said that the Legislature has agreed to extend New York’s "Empire Zones" economic development program for another decade and authorize a dozen new zones statewide over the next four years.

Winner said that the agreement, which will be included in the 2005-06 state budget,promises the creation of an Empire Zone in Tompkins and Yates counties in his legislative district.

"This legislative agreement is great economic news for the residents of counties currently without an Empire Zone. It represents a long-overdue, but great economic development victory that builds the promise for future job creation and enhanced economic opportunities," said Winner, who has made the expansion of the Empire Zones program a priority throughout this year’s state budget negotiations. "The Empire Zones program is a premiere economic development tool in the aggressive, worldwide competition for jobs. It’s been unfair for New York State to keep a small number of counties at such a competitive disadvantage."

Tompkins and Yates are among 11 counties statewide currently without a zone.

The agreementalso extends the Empire Zones program until July 1, 2015, a move that Winner called important to economic planners who can now be assured of the program’s long-term existence. The program was extended for one year, until March 31, 2005, by the Legislature last year.

"There’s been some uncertainty about the continued existence of the program in New York State. It’s tough to market a program that employers can’t count on. The long-term extension gives planners the important ability to promote Empire Zones with conviction to potential employers," Winner said.

Winner also noted that the agreement:

> preserves the boundaries of established zones to ensure that presently certified businesses continue receiving Empire Zone benefits, include those in Chemung, Schuyler and Steuben counties. Local flexibility is maintained to establish zones in a single location or subdivide the zone to encourage development in different locations throughout the county to better accommodate significant projects or new needs; and

> extends existing Empire Zones benefits to agricultural cooperatives.

The Empire Zones program was established in 1986. The zones were originally called "economic development zones." Intended to bolster areas with pockets of poverty, high unemployment, dilapidated industrial and commercial facilities and shrinking tax bases, businesses located within the zones receive significant tax reductions through a range of credits on items including wages, capital investment and property taxes.