Julia Nagel/Sun Photography Editor

The University committed $460,000 to Ithaca Area Economic Development, a local economic non-profit organization, through its five-year investment initiative.

October 2, 2023

Cornell Pledges $460,000 Investment to Ithaca Economic Development Nonprofit

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Amid concerns regarding Cornell’s economic contributions to the City of Ithaca, the University committed $460,000 to Ithaca Area Economic Development — an economic development nonprofit serving Ithaca and Tompkins County — through a five-year investment, according to an IAED press release.

IAED publicly announced their new five-year investment initiative entitled Th!nk Tompkins during a private reception held at Tompkins Community Bank on Sept. 21. At the launch, IAED said they had already secured 65 percent of their $2.1 million goal, particularly through large investors including Cornell who committed to donations during the quiet phase — a fundraising period that precedes publicizing the campaign goal.

Cornell made the largest private investment in Th!nk Tompkins, the Cornell Chronicle wrote

IAED was created in 1964 to attract, grow and retain companies in Ithaca and Tompkins County by facilitating a supportive business environment. The organization’s strategic priorities are to provide “direct services to businesses, [facilitate] workforce development and [establish] economic development leadership,” according to the press release.

According to The Chronicle, IAED is funded about equally by Tompkins County, fees charged for administrative services and investors. 

According to the press release, Th!nk Tompkins will run from 2024-2028 to foster a thriving economy with goals in jobs, payroll and private investment. The initiative also establishes higher standards regarding workforce development, housing and renewable energy.

IAED operates a Direct to Work career-readiness program that connects unemployed and under-employed adults to education, support and opportunities within the manufacturing industry. IAED also administers the Tompkins County Industrial Development Agency which provides economic incentives to infrastructure and industrial development projects.

“Since 1983, TCIDA incentives have supported 149 projects, representing $1.57 billion of investment in the construction and renovation of over 7.4 million square feet of facilities,” the IAED website states.

The Tompkins County Development Corporation was created by the Tompkins County Legislature in 2010 at the request of IAED. TCDC, which is also managed by IAED, connects not-for-profit establishments to tax-exempt bonding opportunities. IAED also provides revolving loan funds — meaning that the repayment for one loan funds the loan for another project — to projects that have a gap in funding in order to attract entrepreneurs to the area and back new and expanding ventures.

“Some of IAED’s current projects include facilitating the more than $400 million investment in SouthWorks, the redevelopment of the 95-acre site formerly known as the Chain Works District in Ithaca’s South Hill neighborhood; helping to establish the semiconductor company Menlo Micro at the Cornell Business and Technology Park in Ithaca, which constitutes a $50 million investment and the creation of 100 jobs and utilizing a $1.2 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to expand IAED’s workforce development program in manufacturing to include construction trades,” The Cornell Chronicle wrote.

“Cornell is so pleased to continue to support IAED’s critical work of fostering economic growth and workforce development in Tompkins County,” said Joel M. Malina, Cornell’s vice president for university relations, in an IAED press release.

The University is considered an IAED Platinum Investor for contributing over $50,000. Ithaca College is also considered an IAED Platinum Investor, according to the IAED website.

Cornell’s pledge to fundraise IAED supplements the University’s 30 percent increase in annual contributions to the Ithaca City School District starting this year.

On Sept. 18, however, the Ithaca Democratic Socialists of America held a rally and march calling on Cornell to provide higher payments in lieu of taxes to the City of Ithaca. The demonstration followed the announcement that Ithaca Mayor Laura Lewis and Cornell President Martha Pollack informally agreed to Cornell paying $4 million annually to the City, an increase from the previous $1.6 million annual PILOT contributions.

IAED leaders including Heather McDaniel, IAED president, however, expressed gratitude for Cornell’s support for the greater Ithaca and Tompkins County area.

“Our investors empower us to deliver customized economic development solutions in support of business growth and retention in Ithaca, Tompkins County and Central New York,” McDaniel said. “We are committed to providing direct services — such as technical assistance, loans and incentives — workforce training and thought and process leadership. The work that we do every day can be measured by the economic impact to this community.”

The Chronicle stated that through IAED’s last funding cycle, the organization facilitated almost $700 million in private investment in Tompkins County and the creation of over 400 jobs.

“The future is really bright here,” McDaniel told The Chronicle. “Meeting our investment goals means we can roll up our sleeves and get to work for the next five years.”