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One month and counting on wait for Start-Up NY progress report

How many jobs were created, and how much money was invested, last year in the network of tax-free zones operated through the state’s Start-Up NY program?

We don't know, because Empire State Development hasn't released its latest annual progress report on the highly touted program.

The document, due April 1, is four weeks late as of Friday morning.

Agency officials initially said they needed more time to collect information from the companies that are participating in Start-Up NY, but they have offered little in the way of an update since then.

On Friday, Jason Conwall, an Empire State Development spokesman, told The Buffalo News in an email: "‎We are finalizing the START-UP NY report and it will be released soon."

Start-Up NY seeks to leverage the intellectual capacity of New York’s colleges and universities to boost the state’s economy, particularly in Upstate New York.

The program, established in 2013 at the urging of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, allows new or expanding companies with ties to participating schools to operate without paying most state or local taxes for 10 years.

Start-Up NY and its benefits took effect Jan. 1, 2014, with the first tax-free zones approved in March of that year and the first companies admitted into the program two months later.

In 2014 alone, the state approved Start-Up NY applications from 54 companies that pledged to create 2,085 jobs and invest more than $91 million during their first five years in the program.

The first progress report on Start-Up NY released one year ago showed the companies had created just 76 jobs, and invested just $1.7 million, as of Dec. 31, 2014. The companies and their employees received a total of $56,561 in benefits that year.

Start-Up NY officials attributed the low numbers to the growing pains involved in getting the program off the ground and vowed it would show marked improvement in its second year.

The University at Buffalo, throughout 2015 and into this year, kept up its pace as the most successful university in the program, as measured by sponsored businesses. Since the program began, 67 companies pledged to create 1,859 jobs and invest $50 million in the region through the UB-connected zones, the university reported. Seven companies approved for the program later left the UB zones, including three since December.

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