Ithaca neighborhood stock photo

The Tompkins County Area Development (TCAD) agency presented their draft work plan to its first county body last week, debuting the plan to the Housing and Economic Development Committee. 

The annual presentation provides a snapshot of what TCAD wants to prioritize during the next calendar year among their overall goals of fostering business and workforce growth throughout the county. Heather McDaniel enters her second year leading the agency, having taken over for longtime president Michael Stamm in 2018. 

The presentation’s most salient content dealt with the agency’s priority items for 2020. First, it highlighted the direct services that TCAD provides as part of its programming, including the revolving loan fund for businesses that are rapidly growing, as well as foreign trade zones. 

Perhaps predictably, economic development leadership does appear to be where most of TCAD’s attention is going to go in the next year, or at least where their efforts appear to intersect the most with those of other entities in the City of Ithaca and elsewhere in Tompkins County. The presentation listed affordable housing incentive policies as one of the priorities, which could mean the continuation of affordable housing requirements as tenets of housing incentives. The City of Ithaca enacted something similar with their Community Investment Incentive Tax Abatement Program (CIITAP) when they passed a resolution that stated that 20 percent of a project’s housing units (if it is a rental housing project) had to be aimed at working class renters in order to be considered for a letter of recommendation under CIITAP. That letter can be significant in receiving official approval for a tax abatement from the Tompkins County Industrial Development Agency. 

Additionally, the Business Energy Advisors is listed as another priority, something that could become significantly more relevant in the next few months if the Green Building Policy is fully approved and implemented, as is expected. Considering the energy goals of local municipalities, it seems likely the BEA program will see increased participation, even as it already found 16 interested companies since it launched in 2018, according to TCAD’s last annual report. While it’s not clear exactly what positions would be added, the presentation also stated that it would add “new staff” for workforce development, which would be “business-facing, collaborative and data driven.”

One of the more public-facing propositions will be sector-based round-tables, which will be held as part of the agency’s business retention and expansion efforts. Which sectors will be featured in 2020 isn’t yet known, but tech and real estate are likely a safe bet given their prominence locally, with others sure to follow. 

Additionally, there are plans to update TCAD’s website and enact a marketing plan on behalf of both TCAD and the Tompkins County Industrial Development Agency, which is in charge of doling out tax abatements to new developments who apply for them. 

Further, in terms of economic development leadership, TCAD named energy, housing, air service/transportation and infrastructure as key issue areas that exist as overarching themes of focus from year to year.

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