Cornell, Ithaca and Tompkins Cortland Launch New Downtown Ithaca Incubator Project
January 16, 2014
Over the past year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has challenged higher education institutions across the state to become even more energetic partners in the region’s economic revitalization.
Now, Cornell University, in collaboration with Ithaca College and Tompkins Cortland Community College, is answering that call by channeling state support and the expertise of these institutions to create the Downtown Ithaca Incubator.
The site, just steps from The Commons in the Carey Building at 314 E. State St., will bring rising entrepreneurs from throughout the area – not just those already affiliated with these schools – to downtown Ithaca to work, learn and create a new thriving business hub within walking distance of the many resources available in the heart of Tompkins County. Working with building owner Travis Hyde Properties, the higher education partners hope to have the Ithaca incubator open for business in a fully remodeled second floor of the Carey Building in the summer of 2014. Plans now being developed by Travis Hyde call for the expansion of the Downtown Ithaca Incubator into a new third floor by early 2015, creating a 9,000-square-foot focal point for entrepreneurial activity.
“Cornell has campuses, programs and relationships that extend around the world, but Ithaca is our home. We thrive only if it thrives,” said Cornell President David Skorton. “Taking up the governor’s challenge to help spur more economic activity in the region is a natural extension of our long commitment to this community and our land-grant mission, and we are particularly thrilled to be joining Ithaca College and Tompkins Cortland Community College to make this downtown incubator a reality.”
The incubator project brings Ithaca College full circle, marking a symbolic return to its downtown roots.
“This venture is the very definition of a win-win situation – both academically and economically,” said Tom Rochon, president of Ithaca College. “Our students will have an outstanding opportunity to work alongside and learn from budding entrepreneurs, helping to inspire their own entrepreneurial spirit. As a partnership among the campuses and between the public and private sectors, the incubator can serve as a model for generating regional economic development opportunities.”
The goal of the new incubator – to unlock entrepreneurial potential and provide a thriving business creation hub in downtown Ithaca – is also a natural extension of the business and economic development mission that has been part of the College since its birth.
“Tompkins Cortland Community College has long been an innovator in supporting public/private partnerships. This is evidenced by our investment at Tioga Place, and by our commitment to offering programs, such as our popular Business Administration and International Business degrees, as well as our new Entrepreneurship degree, that prepare future business owners for success,” said President Cal Haynes. “The incubator is a fitting extension of these efforts, and we are truly excited about its launch and thrilled to be part of this collaboration with Cornell University and Ithaca College.”
The purpose of the Downtown Ithaca Incubator is to provide a focal point for entrepreneurial activity – a first answer to budding entrepreneurs who ask, “Where can I go for help?” A key use of the space will be for programming and events that support entrepreneurship and the local and regional entrepreneurial ecosystem. The space will also be the home of incubator tenant companies, who will have access to work space, mentoring and resources. Companies will be evaluated for tenancy in the Ithaca incubator without regard to organizational affiliation and will be eligible for tax incentives through New York State. Upon graduation from an incubator, companies can take advantage of abundant available commercial and office space downtown, and many will qualify for additional tax incentive support through the new Start-UP NY program.
The Ithaca incubator also is one “node” in the new Southern Tier Innovation Hot Spot, a regional economic development plan that received a three-year, $250,000-per-year award in December from the state’s Regional Economic Development Council. The total cost of the renovation, furnishing and future expansion of the Carey Building is estimated at $3.5 million. Funding to make this possible was secured through the State’s Consolidated Funding Application process for $1 million, with the remaining $2.5 million being invested by Travis Hyde.
Travis Hyde is also supporting the Ithaca Incubator through rent abatements.
“I love the idea that we are giving new life and purpose to a handsome old building that is a significant element in the fabric of downtown Ithaca,” Travis Hyde Properties President Frost Travis said.
Operational costs are being supported by the partner higher education institutions. Over time, fees paid by tenants will partially offset those costs. As is required under the state programs, the Carey Building will remain on the local property tax rolls.