March 10, 2013

Ithaca Ranked No. 1 College Town for Second Time

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Ithaca was ranked as the best college town for towns under 250,000 residents in the United States, a ranking that some Ithaca residents said reflects their perception of the city.

This is the second time Ithaca has been rated ranked number one –– the first time it was ranked best was in 2010-2011. The ranking was based on a variety of factors including its academic environment, quality of life and professional opportunities. The report with the ranking was published by the American Institute for Economic Research in October.

According to the report, Ithaca has the highest number of college students per 1,000 population, the highest percentage of popula­tion ages 25 to 34 with a bachelor’s degree or higher and the highest percentage of workers who commute on foot, bicycle or public transportation.

“Ithaca [is] a great place to live and everything. … I know a fair amount of people that are happy, even people who work in service sector jobs,” said Pete Meyers, coordinator at the Tompkins County Workers Center.

Zach Shulman, senior lecturer of management, said that professional opportunities have been expanding in Ithaca.

“There really has been a blossoming of entrepreneurial activity in terms of companies that are starting here [and] students who are interested in entrepreneurship and starting companies while they’re students or faculty and staff starting companies as well,” Shulman said.

Shulman added that Ithaca is attractive for both families and businesses because it has a rich natural setting and has “great” educational opportunities.

“I asked a guy why he chose to settle here, and he said that it’s the best city between New York and Toronto,” Shulman said.

Shulman added that the supportive nature of the Ithaca government — in addition to its thriving population — is another factor that contributes to Ithaca’s status as best college town, even though the city may not have a lot of money.

“The city is very supportive, but it doesn’t have a lot of money to throw around,” Shulman said. “We have a growing base of people, we have lots of people wanting to start companies, we have a lot of research coming out of Cornell which produces good technology and it’s a right mixture,” he said.

In order to have a better entrepreneurial environment, however, the city needs to provide space for business startups, according to Shulman.

Cornell provides assistance to students wanting to start a business through eLab. However there is no requisite space for companies to set up shops in Ithaca, according to Shulman.

Another component of the study analyzed the “brain gain or drain,” which is the year over year ratio of population living with a B.A. degree. Ithaca was the fifth highest in the brain gain category.

Speaking about brain drain and gain, Michael Stramm, president of Tompkins County Area Development, said that Ithaca’s success depends on keeping jobs and expanding the workforce.

“If we can create a broad range of employment opportunities working with these entrepreneurs, we’ll be able to keep our own population and attract new people who want to work,” he said.

Original Author: Jonathan Dawson