2017-07-19 / Front Page

LICP Meeting Covers Business Financing & Incentives

By Thomas Cogan
Meetings during the hot weather months are few, but the Long Island City Partnership provided one in the second week of July when two business panels were assembled at LICP’s Queens Plaza North headquarters.  The first panel covered financial matters, mainly loans, and the second informed an audience that included many small business persons of the incentives available to them to gain tax breaks and other fiscal relief.  One had only to listen to each panel for a little while to infer how complicated the process of gaining such funds or incentives can be.  However, it certainly appeared that both patience and risk could have their rewards for those able to endure the course and trace the pathways to these goals.

The financial panel was moderated by William Owh, a program analyst in capital assets at the Department of Small Business Services.  He was joined by Bryan Doxford, senior vice president and program manager of community lending, New York Business Development Corporation; John Savignano, chief executive of Savignano Accountants & Advisors; and Michael Lembo, commercial relationship manager at TD Bank and vice president of its Queens commercial lending team.

Doxford said that despite its governmental-sounding name, the NYBDC is private and focuses on the “continuum of capital” as an “alternative lender” that stands between the “the Bank of Mom & Dad” and the big institutions such as Chase and Citibank.  He cited the financial assistance NYBDC provided Chobani when it was beginning to develop its place in the market for Greek-style yogurt.  Doxford also said he likes to dispense advice to clients, particularly about predatory lending.  Lembo said that TD Bank formerly had a large industrial and commercial clientele but lately has dealt more with real estate and small businesses.  He said that sometimes it gives loans to high-risk companies also.  “We’ll look at anything,” he said.

Savignano called himself “a monkey in the middle” between the borrower and the bank.  Savignano Accountants & Advisors manages expectations, he said.  There’s a lot of documentation and vetting involved.  He said the great objective is closing the loan, though even when that is achieved, complications may remain.  His company will look over business matters with both neophyte borrowers and those who have long financial records.  Banks want to be apprised of borrowers’ assets and their ability to handle loans.  Savignano said borrowers are often stumped by bankers’ inquiries and need his intervention.  Also, there are times he must deliver bad news to them, telling them their quests for loans are not feasible.

Lembo said that some of his best customers are those who get turned down.  For them, a quick “no” is better than a drawn-out “maybe.”  For any one of them, it might be a matter of needing additional collateral or another guarantor before a successful loan can be realized.  Savignano said he tries to get borrowers to be more efficient business persons.  When it comes to judgment, perhaps some borrowers have to be told they shouldn’t be in business.  A less harsh conclusion is to advise borrowers to get their financial houses in better order and come back in several months’ time, when improved knowledge and improved presentations could lead to happier results.

The incentives panel was moderated by Ann Kayman, chief executive officer of the New York Grant Company.  She introduced the other panelists, beginning with Donald Giampietro, assistant commissioner of business reform and incentives at the Department of Small Business Services and moving to Alexia Nazarian; project manager of the NYC regional office of Empire State Development; Theodore Oberman, director of commercial exemptions and abatements at the NYC Department of Finance; and Johan Salen, executive director of the city’s Industrial Development Agency and Build NYC Resource Corporation.  Nazarian led off, crediting the city office of Empire State Development as the source of benefits that allowed a local company to install informational kiosks in subway stations. 

Oberman then described several alphabet programs provided by alphabet agencies, dealing with abatements, expansion, energy and relocation.  Among them is the Industrial & Commercial Abatement Program or ICAP, from the Department of Finance or DOF.  Property tax abatements fare made available to commercial and industrial buildings for up to 25 years if the properties become improved by at least 30 percent of the assessed value; and industrial properties that improve by at least 40 percent are eligible for further abatements.  Another DOF initiative is REAP, or the Relocation & Employment Assistance Program, whereby a tax credit of as much as $3,000 per employee per year is granted to businesses relocating in what the DOF calls eligible areas and improving the premises they now occupy. 

Giampetro was glad to announce that a number of as-of-right and discretionary incentives programs were renewed recently.  While start-ups, retail businesses and hospitals are not eligible, industrial businesses are, he said.  Salen is head of an NYCEDC subsidiary, the NYC Industrial Development Agency, or IDA, which attempts to induce developers and businesses to make capital investments toward substantial job creation within the city.  Reduction in, deferral of and exemption from certain taxes—respectively, real estate, mortgage recording and sales taxes—may be resultant benefits. 

The steady recitation by the panelists of devilish details within these incentives eventually made an impression on Kayman, who said that even she, with 25 years’ experience in grants and funding, found much of it hard to follow.  But with all that money being dispersed, those in charge of it are bound to put aspiring beneficiaries through a few paces.     


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