ITHACA, NY – New York State Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul visited Ithaca on Thursday, meeting with local labor leaders at the Tompkins County Worker’s Center (TCWC), which was documented in a video released by the organization.

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Hochul started by thanking the organization for its advocacy on the living wage issue, saying that she felt there would soon be a “sea-change” on the issue.

She then moved into the subject of job placement, noting that one of the major issues is that employer’s are struggling to find people with the necessary skills.

“How do we make this connection between individuals in need of jobs, getting the skills so they can go over here and work,” was the question Hochul posed.

She went on to say that thanks to the Upstate Revitalization Initiative (URI), the region could be seeing between 8,000 and 10,000 new jobs, including high-tech engineering jobs, lower-level manufacturing jobs and a heavy focus on agricultural jobs as well.

Hochul pointed to the vibrancy of downtown Ithaca as something of an anomaly driven in part by Cornell and Ithaca College, but said Tompkins and the rest of the Southern Tier suffer from a great deal of rural poverty. Hochul said it was an issue she was very sensitive too, as she had worked with such constituencies a lot during her time as a congresswoman.

The lieutenant governor went on to say that the URI could bring about a “renaissance” of the southern tier, and the goal was for everyone — not just people with advanced degrees — to see the benefit.

Peter Meyers, one of the founders and the coordinator for the TCWC, said that the organizations main priority has been the living wage issue, noting that the organization was the first in the country to start a local living wage program.

Hochul said that Governor Cuomo earlier in the week had an event in support of the state-wide living wage program that drew a large crowd.

“It’s absolutely ramped up and there’s a lot of enthusiasm about it… That’s the target the governor set out in his budget address in January. So there’s a lot of momentum,” Hochul said.

“The governor’s position is, if you’re working 40 hours a week in the United States of America in 2016, by God you should not be living below the poverty line,” she added.

The full video of the meeting is embedded below:

(Featured photo pulled from Tompkins County Worker’s Center YouTube page)

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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 msmith@ithacavoice.com, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.