NCCC looks to bring jobs through tax-free program

MALONE – North Country Community College President Steve Tyrell wants to bring more biotech companies to the North Country.

At a Franklin County Board of Legislators meeting Thursday, Tyrell outlined a plan developed by NCCC.

If successful, the plan would serve two primary functions: Increase NCCC’s enrollment, and bring new jobs to the region.

“In the past, the college systems have not been engaged in job creation,” Tyrell said. “People go to college, and then they go get the jobs. But it’s different now. It’s now about the colleges developing strong public-private partnerships and targeting how we are repositioning our curriculum to develop the jobs that are needed in New York state. It can’t always be an internal, institutional choice anymore. It has to be driven by what’s going on in the state of New York.”

Although Tyrell said it is too early to release the names, he said several biotechnology, green technology and sustainable energy companies are interested in partnering with the college to take advantage of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s new Start-Up NY program.

Formerly called Tax Free NY, the new program allows eligible companies that set up shop within a mile of a state campus to be exempt from business/corporate taxes, sales taxes and property taxes for 10 years.

Employees of participating companies are exempt from paying income taxes for the first five years they work there. Employees who make less than $200,000 as an individual, $250,000 as a head of household or $300,000 on a joint tax return are eligible for an additional five years of income-tax-exempt status.

To be eligible, a company must be new, expanding within the state to create new jobs or relocating from out of state. Eligible businesses must also align with the academic mission of the college, and they can’t compete with existing local businesses.

“We want to provide training for the jobs that are already here as well as the new job opportunities that we’d like to create,” Tyrell said. “The thing is, it’s not like we’re waving a flag, saying, ‘Please come see us.’ They’re coming to us.”

Campus projects

Tyrell outlined a different plan for each of NCCC’s three campuses and their surrounding communities of Saranac Lake, Malone and Ticonderoga. If all goes well, Tyrell said he’d like to see the projects become a reality within three years.

“If we create jobs here, we keep more people here, we raise the tax base here, we increase the school population here,” Tyrell said. “It’s a ripple effect.”

In Ticonderoga, that goal seems likely. NCCC’s campus there has already secured $1.3 million from private investors and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which was used to create Libby’s Bakery downtown and off-campus housing for 16 students above the bakery.

The Ticonderoga plan also seeks $7.1 million in funding through the North Country Regional Economic Development Council and the SUNY 2020 program to purchase and transform the vacant Lowe’s building into the School of Applied Technology. The building could also host spin-off incubator businesses and industry, Tyrell said. Together, the plans are projected to bring nearly $3.9 million to Ticonderoga annually.

In Saranac Lake, Tyrell said the $10 million project would be funded by a SUNY 2020 grant and is projected to bring 12 faculty positions, 40 jobs and 200 students, who would live downtown. The estimated economic impact to Saranac Lake is $5.7 million annually.

In Malone, the $7.5 million project would bring three faculty positions and 100 new students to the town. It would also create new retail to serve students, revitalize two main facilities and create new agricultural-technology curriculums in hydroponics, aeroponics and aquaponics, all of which involve growing plants without soil. Facilities for those industries wouldn’t necessarily be built near NCCC campuses.

Tyrell said an aquaponics facility could provide a unique and much-needed economic boost to the region by yielding high-end fish, which could be exported to restaurants in major cities like New York, and year-round produce.

“Aquaponics includes fish,” Tyrell said. “The by-products of the fish are the nutrients for the plants and the by-products of the plants are the nutrients for the fish. Those companies are in New York, and we’ve been looking at some of them for our region.”

The proposed projects in Malone would be funded by the North Country Regional Economic Development Council and private investors. NCCC has also allocated $150,000 of its budget to the project. That money will go toward purchasing training equipment to expand existing programs at the school once the project has been finalized.

Members of the board applauded Tyrell’s plan.

“This vision is unbelievable,” said Legislator Tim Lashomb, R-Malone. “The potential is huge. The partnerships that are being developed now are going to drive the future of economic growth in Franklin County.”