Foye’s E.S.D.C. Targets Empire Zones

For years now, Democrats in state government (especially former Comptroller Alan Hevesi and Assembly Member Richard Brodsky) have been complaining about Empire Zones, fast and loose geographic areas around the state where companies can get tax credits in exchange, ostensibly, for creating or maintaining jobs. Now that a Democrat is in the Governor’s mansion, they are about to do something about them, although what exactly is still uncertain.

“On balance, the Empire Zone program has been a failure, and in some ways a gross failure,” Pat Foye, the downstate chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, said at a panel today to mark the release of an economic development study (PDF) by consultants A.T. Kearney. “We have no way of knowing how many jobs have been created or retained.”

Mr. Foye said that he did not plan to dismantle the Empire Zone program, but rather make it more accountable and cost effective. The first step is that E.S.D.C. is sending letters to 3,000 companies that have failed to meet their job projections, including some in New York City (which has 11 Empire Zones).

The former E.S.D.C. chairman, Charles Gargano, has in the past defended the program by saying that companies only receive tax credits for jobs they actually create, but Mr. Foye told reporters after the panel that companies were in some cases benefiting even though they had created no jobs at all.