Tech Committee Goal: Boost Video Game, Biotech Industries

Friday, January 30, 2015

Source: Capital

State Senator Martin Golden believes other states—and even Canada—"are eating our lunch" when it comes to developing and promoting the video game and biotechnology industries.

That's why the Brooklyn Republican, who chairs the Senate Committee on Science, Technology, Incubation and Entrepreneurship, plans to spend considerable time this session working on legislation that boosts those industries here so that New York can better compete with other states.

Golden said the state needs to work harder to get gaming and biotech companies into Start-Up NY tax-free zones and find ways to extend tax credits to those firms to encourage them to grow.

Borrowing a phrase from Governor Andrew Cuomo’s combined State of the State and budget address earlier this month, Golden told Capital his committee’s efforts are all about “jobs, jobs, jobs.”

He repeatedly emphasized the importance of Cuomo’s tax-free zones and “innovation hot spots,” along with his tax credit and jobs programs for new and developing companies.

”We shouldn’t be lagging behind anybody,” Golden said, bemoaning the explosive growth of the gaming industry in California and Texas. In California, the industry accounts for roughly 55,000 jobs and $2.3 billion in business, he said, while in New York there are fewer than 5,000 jobs that generate $26.9 million.

New York boasts two leading video game companies: Take Two Interactive, in New York City, and Vicarious Visions, in Menands, near Albany. Both are industry juggernauts, but they’re easily outmatched by the clusters of similar businesses that have emerged in the U.S. and Canada.

”Canada is eating our lunch and so are places like Texas, California, Connecticut and Massachusetts," he said. "Before they eat our lunch, we should get out in front and own it.”

Golden emphasized that beyond working on economic initiatives, he and his committee also need to work with the state’s colleges to draw students with the appropriate skills into the emerging industries.

”[These companies] have different needs ... and different professional staff that need to be trained and are difficult to find, so we should be working with our colleges to make sure we are graduating these men and women into these fields,” Golden said. ”These kids graduate and go to places like California and Texas. The goal is to maintain those jobs and to grow those jobs here.”

Bob Herz, a staffer for Golden who directs his work on the committee, told Capital that New York has “incredible infrastructure” in place for both gaming and biotech development.

“We have some extraordinary research and invention taking place, but we’re not commercializing it as quickly as we need to try to do,” Herz said. “So that’s an area [Golden] is trying to focus on.

“Other parts of the country are exploding in biomed and biotech,” Herz said, citing $3 billion invested by California in stem cell research and $3 billion invested by Texas in cancer research. “The institutions [in New York] are now in danger of beginning to lose their top researchers to other parts of the country.”

Golden echoed Herz’s thoughts on the state’s biotech industry, and said it was strong but “all over the place" without any central coordination or support structure.

Herz said the legislative future of economic development initiatives looks positive, but shied away from naming any specific items Golden or others planned to work on or introduce.

In his budget, Cuomo proposed extending a tax credit program to video game companies, which Herz said would be a strong first step.

Herz said Golden's committee also “has a great partner in [Assembly majority leader] Joe Morelle,” and that “[Cuomo] seems to be willing to engage in the conversation,” which should translate into a positive and productive session for the committee.

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