ITHACA, N.Y. – Why live in Ithaca? The Tompkins Chamber of Commerce can think of a whole host of reasons, and with the new “Live in Ithaca” campaign they hope to reach talented job seekers with their pitch.

Leaders from local businesses, non-profits and government gathered Monday, March 18 at the Tompkins Financial Corporation for a Live in Ithaca launch event. The group represented a coalition interested in improving area employers’ ability to attract and retain employees.

“We feel very celebratory,” Jennifer Tavares, president of the Tompkins Chamber, said as the Live in Ithaca website went live Monday.

She said the idea for the campaign emerged more than three years ago as area employers discussed the challenge of matching job openings with qualified candidates. “The problems of recruitment and retention are not unique to Ithaca,” she said, “but we worked to develop unique solutions.”

With Tompkins Financial, Cornell, Ithaca College and Cayuga Medical Center as founding partners, Tavares said “a multi-pronged solution evolved.”

In addition to the Live in Ithaca website, the Chamber will launch a marketing campaign and will release biannual print publications featuring more than 200 employers and 500 community resources, according toDominick Recckio, director of strategic communications for the Chamber.

By providing information about local housing, schools, parks, restaurants, healthcare facilities, sports and so on, as well as stories from longtime residents and newcomers, the Chamber hopes to draw job seekers to the county and make their transition here smoother.

Tavares said resources on the website are tailored to local workforce needs. For example, a page is dedicated to dual career relocations, recognizing that many people interested in moving to Ithaca for their career can only be recruited if their partner finds a suitable job in the area too.

The site also addresses common hurdles folks considering a move to Ithaca face. For instance, it includes a housing page to help job candidates not only find a home to rent or by but also set up utilities, as well as links to school, childcare and healthcare providers.

Live in Ithaca is meant to be a useful tool for people in all industries and economic positions, Tavares said. For instance, she pointed out that the site’s housing page includes information about Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services as well as information about downtown luxury apartments.

Speakers addressed workforce recruitment challenges at the Live in Ithaca launch event. (Devon Magliozzi/The Ithaca Voice)

Speakers at Monday’s event emphasized the sheer number and variety of job openings large organizations in Tompkins County often have.

Brian Forrest, vice president of human resources for Cayuga Medical Center, said the healthcare system employs people with more than 300 distinct job titles. While he acknowledged that Tompkins’ low unemployment rate is generally a good thing, he said it can be difficult to recruit so many employees with unique skill sets and interests when local residents are already working elsewhere.

Greg Hartz, CEO and president of the Tompkins Trust Company, put the issue bluntly. “We’re often looking for professionals,” he said, “and the local pool is not sufficient.”

Employers who partnered with the Chamber to launch Live in Ithaca are banking on the idea that Tompkins will appeal to job candidates once they see what the area has to offer. Martha Robertson, chair of the Tompkins County Legislature, said past data supports that assumption. She cited a pattern in Cornell’s recruitment and retention of faculty wherein the university pays assistant professors more, on average, than peer universities, but pays associate professors less.

“You have to pay them more to get them here, but less to keep them,” she said. Generalizing to other industries, she said “once we get them here they don’t want to leave.”

With its mix of job postings, event listings, practical relocation information and stories from residents, the new website is meant to nudge job candidates to give Ithaca and surrounding towns and villages a shot. Whether newcomers decide to stay or not will depend on whether living in Ithaca lives up to the promise.

Featured image: The Commons (Ithaca Voice)

Devon Magliozzi

Devon Magliozzi is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at dmagliozzi@ithacavoice.com or 607-391-0328.