Graduate Students Work to Strengthen Local Economy in Start-Up New York Program
“Start-Up New York is about the marriage of the community with the businesses and the university. It’s about really finding the right fit in all those different areas: What’s mutually beneficial? What helps the community?” says Olevia Mitchell, a first-year graduate student working for this new program, which aims to strengthen the local economy and facilitate a positive relationship between new Syracuse businesses and the University.
“Start-Up New York can create new business relationships for the university that can lead to collaborative research opportunities for faculty and internships and jobs for Syracuse University graduates,” says Marilyn Higgins, the vice president of community engagement and economic development. Higgins leads the Start-Up New York program, which is based in the Nancy Cantor Warehouse in downtown Syracuse.
“We’re finding a way to leverage and maximize the intellectual capital on the hill,” adds Eric Horvath, another graduate student working on Start-Up New York with Mitchell. “We look at the space, look at the business, and decide what the real potential is, for both the local economy and for Syracuse University.”
Mitchell and Horvath identify opportunities for businesses to enter the Syracuse economy and contribute to long-term growth. Businesses that already exist in Syracuse aren’t eligible for the program; if not a startup, businesses have to be from out of state or outside the Syracuse area, and must show that they can create new jobs in New York State in order to be eligible. Additionally, businesses that qualify for Start-Up New York receive up to 10 years of tax-free status. In this way, Start-Up New York helps individual businesses that help Syracuse as a whole.
“We look at things like what sector the business fits into, and whether or not the business has any tax violations,” elaborates Horvath. He goes on to explain that, in order to qualify, a business must also not be in direct competition with an existing business in its census tract, or an adjacent census tract.
“I’m excited to see what happens,” says Mitchell in regard to the work that she and Horvath have been doing. “We’re essentially creating the framework for how the whole initiative will run. We’re starting up the startup.”
Mitchell and Horvath were selected based upon their experience and drive for success. The two employees represent the best of the best, from a pool of over 70 applicants.
Mitchell completed her undergraduate education at Syracuse University, earning degrees in economics and entrepreneurship in the College of Arts and Sciences and Whitman School, respectively. She chose to stay at Syracuse because of the iSchool’s number one program in information management, her current field of study. Horvath attended Fordham University, majoring in English and economics. However, beyond academics, both demonstrated a commitment to excellence in their extracurricular activities.
After graduating from Fordham, Horvath spent three years in South Korea teaching English on a Fulbright Grant from the State Department. He also volunteered extensively with North Korean refugees. Here at Syracuse University, he is president of SUPRA, the Syracuse University Program for Refugee Assistance. Horvath is also the executive director of Music for the Mission, a group that sponsors local music events and donates the money raised to service-providing organizations for the homeless and the hungry.
Mitchell is also involved in the local community. She’s worked with Digital Girls, a startup that provides an educational program for women interested in technology. The program targets high school and early college-aged girls with the intention of better equipping them to enter into the professional technology field. Mitchell is also part of WIT, or Women In Technology, a group within the Whitman School.
Together, Mitchell and Horvath have the professional skills and the community experience to facilitate rapid growth for Start-Up New York. Speaking of her experiences with Start-Up New York over the past few weeks, Mitchell says, “It really feels like we’re contributing in a meaningful way. This is a great opportunity, and so far, it’s definitely worthwhile.”
Story by Austin Galovski, work-study in the Office of News Services