ITHACA, N.Y. — The Southern Tier has submitted an entry into the Upstate Revitalization Initiative (URI) promoted by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and that includes plans for Ithaca and Tompkins County.

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The URI competition is modeled after the “Buffalo Billion” program that Cuomo’s office launched in Western New York. The URI program offers $500 million to winning entries, disbursing $100 million per year for five years. The program has been dubbed Cuomo’s “Hunger Games” in some circles.

There are seven entries in the competition – Central New York (Syracuse), Finger Lakes (Rochester), Mid-Hudson (Poughkeepsie), Mohawk Valley (Utica), North Country (Watertown/Plattsburgh) and the Capital Region (Albany). A brief comparison of the plans can be found here.

The Southern Tier’s plan (224 pages, link here) would build an “innovation ecosystem” in the Binghamton area, with investments in advanced manufacturing, the food and agriculture industry and tourism and cultural organizations.

The plan would leverage more than $2.5 billion in private investment and create more than 10,200 jobs. To help meet its goals, the regional economic development council hopes to utilize the brainpower and connections offered by the local colleges, and large manufacturers such as Borg-Warner in Lansing.

Less attention has been given to Ithaca and Tompkins than their economically stressed neighbors in Elmira and Binghamton, but a number of projects are being put forth as part of the submission.

Here’s a rundown:

  • Cornell would use the funding to create a “Plant Science Innovation and Business Development Center” that would begin construction in 2017, and open the following year. The cost of the center, which will focus on new agricultural production technologies (an example given is advancing “controlled environment agriculture” for greater production during the cold season), is pegged at $20 million over 5 years. Plans call for re-use of available Cornell facilities as well as new space in or near the university. The council is enthusiastic that Cornell’s technology and top-ranked plant science program can provide strong support to building the local food production and agriculture industries. Cornell would also receive $500,000 in funds for a “Beef and Cattle Research Program” and up to $4.5 million for an “Earth Source Heat Project”, which would examine biomass as a form of geothermal energy.
  • An “Urban Agriculture Module” at Cornell Cooperative Extension’s 615 Willow Avenue site will provide training opportunities in aquaponics and hydroponics for low-income youths.
  • Ithaca Hummus would use funds to build an expanded facility to open in 2017. According to the proposal, Ithaca Hummus wants to “build a state-of-the-art production facility with the capacity to produce hummus for every grocery store on the East Coast by 2018.” The investment would be $7-$10 million and produce 50 jobs over 5 years.
  • Ithaca-based The Piggery would expand, and include a USDA-certified slaughterhouse in Steuben County.
  • Ithaca Beer and Hopshire Farm and Brewery of Dryden would receive $175,000 and $60,000 to help with expansion projects – specifically for Ithaca Beer, a canning line. Both would commence expansion plans in 2016. Ithaca Beer’s project cost is $1 million and expects to create five new jobs. Hopshire’s total cost would be $300,000 and create two new jobs.
  • Finger Lakes ReUse would receive $500,000 towards constructing two additional buildings at 214 Elmira Road to begin construction in 2016. The expansion would create 17 jobs and cost $2.7 million.
  • Incodema3D of Freeville would receive $375,000 towards a metrology project (metrology is the science of measurement). The project total cost of $2 million, the rest paid for by Incodema3D. Three jobs would be created.
  • Groundswell Center of Ithaca would receive $110,000 to establish a training farm program at its farm business incubator in Ithaca town. The $630,000 program would provide classes and training in organic farming and marketing, and create 24 jobs.
  • The Sciencenter would receive $300,000 towards a $1.5 million capital project for renovations and new exhibits.
  • A project called “Ithaca’s Collegetown Redevelopment”, planned for a 2018 opening. In another section of the document, this is briefly referred to as the “Firehouse Capital Project”. The project would receive $1.2 million for infrastructure costs. The Ithaca Voice will be following up on this with a second article.

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Brian Crandall

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at bcrandall@ithacavoice.com.