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North country businesses stand to gain under Cuomo’s plans for tax cuts, agriculture initiative


Elimination of the corporate income tax for upstate manufacturers and an initiative to market upstate farm products to downstate consumers were among Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s proposals Wednesday that north country economic leaders expect would boost business.

Along with continuing summit events launched in 2013 to promote yogurt, spirits and tourism, Gov. Cuomo announced in his State of the State address that he will launch a new “Upstate-Downstate Food-to-Table Agriculture Summit” in 2014 to connect the agriculture industry to consumers and markets.

In addition, upstate manufacturers stand to gain about $25 million in tax relief under the governor’s proposal to eliminate the corporate income tax rate.

Producers of value-added products are excited about Gov. Cuomo’s proposed summit, which will aim to better market upstate products to downstate consumers. A date for the summit has not been scheduled.

Kevin L. Richardson, president of North Country Farms flour mill, already does 90 percent of his business in New York City and said he hopes the summit will bring even more attention to producers in the north country. Launched in 2008, the company on Route 37 in Pamelia produces white and whole-wheat flour, which it distributes along with pancake and muffin mixes, maple syrup, honey and jams.

The governor’s initiative would “help anyone producing a local, quality product that wants to put it in places where consumers are downstate,” Mr. Richardson said. “We’re aggregating local farm products here and selling them in the metro market in New York City, and we do business with over 20 of the most-noted artisan bread makers. Most of my business is done there because of the interest in locally grown food and sustainability, and producers up here can take more advantage of that. All of the local suppliers and producers here in the region produce quality products, but it’s a matter of getting it in front of the right people in the metro area.”

For years, agriculture leaders in the north country have sought to establish downstate markets for producers to market and sell value-added products, said Jay M. Matteson, Jefferson County agricultural coordinator. But a statewide effort spurred by the governor’s summit that would seek input from producers across the state could help provide solutions needed to sell their products in downstate markets, he said.

“Listening to input from producers across New York state about what can be done to grow their businesses will help, as long as we’re listening to all of the producers and not just those in the Catskills and Hudson Valley regions,” Mr. Matteson said. “And another yogurt summit could go further than the last time by making more investments in the dairy industry through tax credits, low-interest loans or grants, research money and barriers to growth such as (acquiring) three-phase power.

The manufacturing industry already has been making a comeback in Jefferson and Lewis counties in recent years, as a handful of companies has expanded and created jobs. From November 2012 to the same month in 2013, 200 manufacturing jobs were added in Jefferson County to increase the total to about 2,500, said David J. Zembiec, deputy CEO of the Jefferson County Local Development Corp.

In addition to the elimination of their corporate income tax rate, upstate manufacturers under Gov. Cuomo’s plan would benefit from a refundable credit against corporate and personal income taxes equaling 20 percent of businesses’ property taxes. Coupled together, those initiatives will encourage north country manufacturers to create jobs, Mr. Zembiec said.

“Oftentimes we’re talking to manufacturers who have plans for a slight expansion or new production line, and they’re looking at a lot of things,” he said. “You hear about the corporate income tax being negative, so if you take both of (the governor’s) proposals together, it could help them to expand. And it will certainly help with job retention.”

The governor has also proposed to lower the corporate franchise tax from 7.1 to 6.5 percent.

“That’s the lowest rate since 1968, and it really sends a strong signal to businesses that this is a different day, and we’re doing it a different way,” Gov. Cuomo said in his speech.

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