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Higher education leads way in governor’s program

By Gary A. Olson

There are a number of reasons to support Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s recently announced “Tax-Free New York” program as a catalyst to stimulate the connection between public and private institutions of higher education and new jobs and businesses in New York.

The governor’s bold measure to grant tax relief to startups, and to outside businesses that partner with SUNY and private colleges, is additional recognition of the major economic impact that our colleges and universities have in the state.

Data compiled by the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities show that in 2011, New York’s private colleges and universities contributed a whopping $63.2 billion to the state economy – an increase of 16.4 percent since 2009) – and that is just our private institutions, like Daemen College.

Daemen alone, a small college of 3,000 students, has an estimated economic impact on the region of nearly $114 million.

Western New York in general and the Buffalo-Niagara region in particular are strategically positioned to contribute to the governor’s job and new business stimulus, with 21 private and public institutions of higher education within an hour of downtown Buffalo. They include seven SUNY schools and some of the finest private colleges in our state.

Take Daemen College as an example. We already enjoy partnerships with a major digital media/visual effects company in Buffalo. We believe this partnership could provide a launch pad for new visual effects and post-production businesses in the city, and new high-paying jobs that will help keep our students here in the region.

The governor’s program dovetails perfectly with our Visual Effects Certificate initiative. Daemen is focused on providing a pathway to accelerate community college students through their associate degree programs and into our certificate program, and then into new visual effects/post-production companies and jobs that will emerge.

This Visual Effects Certificate initiative is an excellent example of how the governor’s proposed link between higher education and new business and job opportunities envisioned in his tax-free communities partnership plan will have an enormous impact on our community.

So the governor’s program is the right kind of creative policy that will further connect the economic engine of higher education with business to create the potential for many new jobs, businesses, and industries in Western New York and throughout the state.

Gary A. Olson is president of Daemen College in Amherst.