Businesses receiving Empire Zone tax breaks to be held accountable
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Businesses receiving Empire Zone tax breaks to be held accountable

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Buffalo, NYHundreds of companies get millions of dollars in tax breaks and in return promise to hire new employees or invest in their own businesses, generating jobs for poor or impoverished neighborhoods.

But many companies don’t keep their promises, according to state officials. Now, after years of complaints about New York’s Empire Zone program, the state is taking a hard stand. It is publicizing the names of companies that didn’t keep the promises and says it will demand repayment if improvements aren’t made.

Many of Buffalo’s most-successful and high-profile businesses are being warned.

Several of the businesses, however, say the state numbers are faulty, and they are trying to get the figures corrected.

The Empire Zone program provides about $500 million in annual tax breaks to nearly 9,000 companies — 1,434 in Western New York.

At this point, the warnings carry no penalties, but continued failure to meet investment and employment benchmarks will bar future participation.

Statewide, the figures show the program has created little job growth, with firms generating 52,000 fewer jobs than promised and some actually reducing, rather than expanding, their work force. Actual investments compared with promised investments were off by $4.3 billion statewide.

The story is the same in Western New York, where investment was off by $241 million. The data also shows Empire Zones aren’t effective in growing jobs in Western New York, with 182 companies not meeting at least 60 percent of their promised job goals.

By Sharon Linstedt and Tom Precious – The Buffalo News

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