ITHACA, NY – “It feels like winning the powerball,” said Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick.

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The Southern Tier, which includes Tompkins County, was one of the three regions chosen to win $500 million in what’s been called “The Upstate Hunger Games.” The award will be granted as $100 million a year for the next five years.

Formally known as the Upstate Revitalization Initiative, the state-run program challenged seven regions of upstate New York to come up with an economic plan to, as the name implies, revitalize their economies.

Each region had an Regional Economic Development Council, or REDC, that drafted the plan over the course of roughly a year. Representing Tompkins on the Southern Tier REDC were Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick, Tompkins Legislature Chair Mike Lane, President of Tompkins County Area Development Michael Stamm, and Dr. Kathryn Boor, Dean of Cornell’s Agriculture and Life Sciences.

The seven regions were: the Capital Region, Central New York, the Finger Lakes, Mid-Hudson, Mohawk Valley, North Country, and the Southern Tier. Central New York and the Finger Lakes were the other two winners.

“It’s exciting to know that we will have $100m a year every year for the next five years,” said Myrick, explaining that in the past the region had won similar awards, but lacked the guaranteed yearly cash infusion to proceed on more long-term, far-reaching projects.

“Leaders in business, politics and higher ed can now sit down together and make plans for 2018, 2019, 2020…,” he said.

A big portion of the REDC’s 200+ page plan was focused on revitalizing Binghamton’s “innovation ecosystem.” According to TCAD President Michael Stamm, Tompkins has a “very high performing” innovation sector with a “track record of growing high tech business” so it was less needed here.

Related: What is Ithaca’s role in $500 million Southern Tier plan?

Stamm said that the biggest boons to Tompkins County will be in the areas of manufacturing – particularly related to the transportation industry – and agriculture. He cited Borg Warner and Therm as good examples of businesses that might benefit from the plan’s focus on industrial innovation.

On the agriculture end, Stamm said that Tompkins has seen an increase in local companies that expand their speciality food offerings to other markets, citing Ithaca Hummus as an example.

A more complete list from earlier coverage is below:

  • 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 Voicewill be following up on this with a second article.

The plan also includes a number of region-spanning funds, initiatives and education programs that should benefit and support economic growth in Tompkins as well as the other counties in the Southern Tier.

Stamm and Myrick both noted that this $500m award is on top of additional monies granted to each region by the state for specific projects. The details which projects have been approved for these funds should be available later today.

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Michael Smith

Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.