SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- A Canadian dog licensing company has officially opened its U.S. headquarters in Syracuse, with the help of a series of tax breaks from New York State.
DocuPet, which is based in Kingston, Ontario, opened its United States headquarters at the Tech Garden at 235 Harrison St.
"We were a Canadian company, we're now a Canadian and American company," CEO Grant Goodwin said Friday.
DocuPet is a pet licensing company that keeps an online database of profiles for registered dogs -- sort of a "Facebook for dogs" as one staffer put it. The company has partnered with the City of Syracuse to manage the city's dog license program.
With a home base in Syracuse, DocuPet is working to aggressively expand across the nation. Goodwin said he plans to be operating in five states by next summer. Already, a branch has opened in Boulder, Colorado.
DocuPet currently has two employees at its Syracuse headquarters. Goodwin said he's trying to fill six more positions, mostly in marketing or software development. Earlier this summer, he said he will have 20 employees by 2020.
Friday morning, Mayor Ben Walsh visited the company's headquarters to welcome them to Syracuse. He brought his 1-year-old black Newfoundland, Ollie, to renew his license.
DocuPet is part of the much touted but little used Start-Up NY program, which was started by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2013.
It was largely assailed by critics after creating just 1,135 jobs in its first three years, despite millions in tax exemptions and $53 million spent on marketing. Earlier this year, state Senate Republicans called for the program to be shut down.
Statewide, the program approved just 67 new businesses last year.
Start-Up NY gives hefty tax breaks to new businesses that start near a college campus.
In Central New York, nine companies participate in the Start-Up NY program, including DocuPet. Those companies have projected 160 net new jobs in a five-year period and investment of more than $15.6 million, according to the Empire State Development Corporation.
DocuPet partnered with SUNY Oswego to join the Start-Up NY program. The university has a satellite campus in downtown Syracuse at the Metro Center next to Clinton Square.
Under Start-Up NY, DocuPet will pay no state income taxes or sales taxes for its first 10 years in operation. Its employees will also pay no state income tax for those 10 years.
Pam Caraccioli, deputy to the president at SUNY Oswego, said the partnership provides the college lots of benefits at no cost. DocuPet provides a pipeline to jobs for students as well as internship opportunities and expertise, she said.
The first two employees at DocuPet at SUNY Oswego graduates.
"That underscores the partnership and teamwork we try to bring to the table," she said.
Goodwin said the company is growing fast, hiring lots and looking to strengthen its position in New York State.
In Syracuse, it costs $10 for a dog license. All dogs are supposed to be licensed, according to state law. But most people don't know that, and there's no real penalty for an unlicensed dog.
The company partnered with the city of Syracuse in July at no cost to the city. They will offer online licensing and manage registration on behalf of the city clerk, who issues the licenses.
Before DocuPet came to town, about 2,000 dogs were licensed. That's about 8 percent of the city's total dog population.
Goodwin said the rate of dog registration in the city has almost doubled since they began operating earlier this fall. And he's hiring more marketing staff to reach out to more people.
His company outlines the benefits of getting a license. In particular, it becomes much easier to track and return a lost dog that is registered and tagged. The company also offers regular perks for registered dog owners, like coupons from pet stores.
DocuPet also offers online registration, which takes just a few minutes. To register a dog, visit syracuse.docupet.com.