Jason Wu/Sun Assistant Photography Editor

At Thursday's Student Assembly meeting, the Office of Community Relations discussed Cornell's impact on the Tompkins County economy.

February 23, 2023

Office of Community Relations Discusses University’s Economic Impact on Tompkins County at Student Assembly Meeting

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Cornell’s Office of Community Relations presented at Thursday’s Student Assembly meeting in Willard Straight Hall to review Cornell’s economic effects on Tompkins County.

According to Kate Supron, campus-community liaison for the Office of Community Relations, the office serves as a liaison between the University and local governments, nonprofits and businesses. The organization also responds to local community members’ questions and requests regarding the University.

“We know the community, we know the campus and we help make connections between the two,” Supron said.

Supron also noted that out of 16 municipalities in Tompkins County, Cornell’s Ithaca campus sits in three municipalities, and the University owns property in all of them.

“[Because of our significant presence in Tompkins County], we work really hard to maintain good relationships with our neighbors in the community where we all live,” Supron said.

For the past eight years, the Office of Community Relations has worked with the Cornell Budget Office to publish data on the University’s role within the Tompkins County economy. The snapshot of the data is released annually in January.

Supron specifically noted that Cornell-related visitor spending in Tompkins County stood at 59 million dollars in 2022, a number equivalent to 76 percent of the visitor spending throughout the pre-pandemic 2019 fiscal year. The 2021 fiscal year saw only 400 thousand dollars in visitor spending — a 99.5 percent decrease from pre-pandemic levels.

“[The 2021 numbers] were shockingly low and seriously impacted the community,” Supron said. “We were really excited to see [the numbers] rebound.”

Supron also clarified the misconception that Cornell does not pay any taxes — in 2022, the University was the third-highest taxpayer in Tompkins County, according to Cornell’s local economic snapshot

“We do pay property taxes, just not on properties that have an educational purpose,” Supron said. “[That includes] East Hill Plaza [and] the Cornell Business and Technology Park.”

Supron said that the University’s offices in Albany use the snapshot to bring in funding from New York State and that the University’s offices in Washington, D.C. use it to acquire federal research funding. The snapshot is also utilized by the Center for Regional Economic Advancement at Cornell University and is presented at assemblies across the University. Supron added that the report is used outside of Cornell as well. 

“Outside of Cornell, we present it to the Chamber of Commerce and to local businesses,” Supron said. “We share it with nonprofits, we share it with our municipal partners, and it is used a lot around the country because we are one of the only universities that produces this data on an annual basis.”

Correction, Feb. 26, 1:17 p.m.: A previous version of this article misstated that Cornell is the second-largest taxpayer in Tompkins County. The article has been corrected to accurately reflect that the University is the third-highest taxpayer in the County.