New York State Senator Catharine Young (R-57) will step down from her seat representing western New York to become the new director of the Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture at Cornell AgriTech, Young announced Feb. 28.
A civil servant for 23 years, Young will begin her new role at Cornell on March 11. She will join the Center of Excellence in the midst of its inaugural year to aid its goal to build partnerships in research, business and agriculture.
The Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture was launched in September 2018. In the months since, it has engaged with over 50 companies to help them raise a total of $12.3 million for their businesses.
Young’s new position at Cornell AgriTech will focus on the intersection between business and agriculture. Cornell AgriTech — originally called the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station — was established by the New York State Legislature in 1880. The station was integrated into Cornell University in 1923, and is now a vital part of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
“Now, there’s a new and exciting opportunity to carry on my public service,” Young said in a press release, in reference to her new job. “To grow New York’s food, beverage and agriculture economy by linking them with the incredible innovation, expertise and resources at Cornell AgriTech so they can expand and flourish is a natural extension of my work that I have done as a Senator.”
Young will head the Center during an early phase, when it is still looking to grow.
“It’s not a big enterprise — yet,” Prof. Jan Nyrop, Goichman Family Director of Cornell AgriTech, told The Sun in a phone call, speaking from the State Capitol.
“Catharine Young, as the director, will be responsible for implementing and realizing the goals and the new strategies that have been developed thus far for the Center of Excellence,” Nyrop said.
The Center actualizes its goal of expanding the New York agricultural economy through their ideology of “push, pull, grow” Nyrop said. “Push” is moving and commercializing technologies out of Cornell, “pull” is attracting companies to New York and “grow” is helping existing companies expand.
According to Nyrop, one pull aspect is a new project called “Grow New York,” a business competition focused that seeks to bring over 100 companies, entrepreneurs and startups to the region. “[The Center] will engage with those firms … to help them make connections and show why it would be strategic for them to locate to New York,” Nyrop said.
Ultimately, seven finalists will receive a total of $3 million of state funding, as long as they stay in upstate New York for at least a year.
Young has previously chaired the Senate Agriculture Committee, and was the first woman to chair the Senate Standing Committee on Finance in 2016.
“Through those roles, I worked extensively to advance economic development and agriculture in the state,” Young said. “[This new role] is taking that background that I have and putting it to a new, exciting use.”
Young began her career of public service in 1995 in the Cattaraugus County Legislature, and became a state assembly member in 1999. In 2005, she was elected via a special election to the State Senate to represent the 57th Senate district, which encompasses the southwest corner of the state.
“It truly is an honor and a privilege to be at Cornell,” Young said. “I plan on hitting the ground running.”