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Excelsior called no substitute for Empire Zones<br>;Development director criticizes new state effort

The state's new Excelsior Jobs program is "like replacing a machete with a butter knife."

Steven G. Hyde, director of the Genesee County Economic Development Corp., used that analogy Friday in discussing substituting Empire Zone with the drastically scaled-back Excelsior.

The reduction in incentives, he said, will make it more difficult for two development agency projects -- Upstate New York Agri-Business Park and Western New York Science and Advanced Technology Park -- to attract out-of-state companies integral in food processing and manufacturing solar panels and computer chips.

Hyde noted that two such companies -- Yahoo and a green-technology company from the Midwest -- had considered the agency's Buffalo East Technology Park in Pembroke under the old Empire Zone incentives.

"They ultimately did not locate here, but if Excelsior had been in place they wouldn't even have looked at us," Hyde said.

"Excelsior is in no way compatible with the Empire Zones, especially for shovel-ready sites that [the agency] promotes," he added.

He said Excelsior delays tax credits for creating jobs and changes incentives for investment, research and development, as well as tax incentives and real property tax advantages.

As a result, Hyde said, his agency will have to be "more aggressive in local development."

In the end, he said, the new program will adversely affect local communities because of the lack of incentives such as payments in lieu of taxes.

Last year, the agency had 30 project "wins" with a total investment of $82 million, the eventual creation of 109 jobs and retention of another 942.

"Replacing the Empire Zones is going to hurt our job-creation efforts, especially with out-of-state firms," Hyde said.

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