Designed as an incubator providing subsidized rental spaces to small businesses, the Accelerator program was central to a high-profile corruption scandal involving three convicted OCIDA officials in 2021.
Bill Fioravanti, CEO of OCIDA, said at the committee meeting that he intended to renew the leases with the two remaining tenants for another year, given their better-than-average business performance and low cost to the agency.
OCIDA had rented a facility owned by the Town of Warwick at a nominal fee for years and subleased the space to the two tenants, a candle manufacturer and a skincare company; both leases expired in May.
Fioravanti’s analysis indicated that renewing the leases wasn't a money-losing move for OCIDA, as was the case with most former tenants.
The agency closed Accelerator locations in Newburgh, New Windsor, and Middletown over the course of a year, with the Warwick facility the last remaining site.
An industrial development agency is a type of public benefit corporation empowered by New York state law to mete out tax incentives to spur economic and job growth.
The agencies often receive handsome fees from large businesses in return for tax incentives, also called payments in lieu of taxes.
When OCIDA established the Accelerator program in 2009, the intention was to use the money collected from big companies to prop up small businesses.
All three pleaded guilty: former OCIDA Managing Director Vincent Cozzolino, former CEO Laurie Villasuso, and former Accelerator Committee Chairman Edward Diana.
After news of the scandal broke in 2021, the county legislature reshuffled the OCIDA board and leadership team, and Fioravanti was tapped to lead the agency.
According to Fioravanti, many business tenants under the program became reliant on the subsidized rents instead of growing into independent operations; some even failed to pay rent.
Even though the program’s reputation is tainted, Fioravanti said he wasn't against the concept of an incubator and remained open to revisiting the model at the right time.
The key is to apply the model to industries on the rise, such as technology and artificial intelligence, he told The Epoch Times in a previous interview.
As to the last two remaining tenants, he said he hoped to turn them into direct tenants—as opposed to subtenants through OCIDA—with the Warwick facility when their new leases expire next year.
The OCIDA board is expected to vote on the two new leases at the next meeting on June 21.