ITHACA, N.Y. — A roundtable discussion about entrepreneurship brought national, state and local officials together and prompted protesters to gather in The Ithaca Commons Monday afternoon.

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Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Cornell President Beth Garrett and Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick met with several small business owners at Rev: Ithaca Startup Works, a new start-up incubator in downtown Ithaca.

Rev Program Coordinator Rachel Rhodes said the roundtable discussion was prompted by the acquisition of a $500,000 federal grant that allows regional hardware accelerator programs connect with people and companies to help implement ideas.

People gathered in The Ithaca Commons to protest the storage of fracked gas in salt caverns by Seneca Lake.

During a roundtable panel discussion, Mayor Svante Myrick said Gillibrand’s support of the Ithaca Commons project has helped small business development in Ithaca.

He said that before the Commons renovation started, 9 percent of storefronts in the commons were empty. That number has dropped to 3 percent.

“I want to say that the senator truly was one of the largest champions of this project,” he said. “I want to say on behalf of the entire Ithaca community, thank you so much.”

Protesters on the Ithaca Commons said they were at the event to discuss fracking.

“We want (Governor) Cuomo and Senator Gillibrand to stop this idea of storing fracked gas in the Seneca Lake salt caverns,” says Kathy Russell, of the Coalition for Sustainable Economic Development.

She also said the fracking ban in New York was the right move to make for the environment and development, but said that the battle against fracking isn’t over.

This is a developing story. Check back later for more information.

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Jolene Almendarez

Jolene Almendarez is Managing Editor at The Ithaca Voice. She can be reached at jalmendarez@ithacavoice.com; you can learn more about her at the links in the top right of this box.