The Economy Chapter (4.68 MB) of the Tompkins County Comprehensive Plan states that
Tompkins County should be a place where economic prosperity is accessible to all.
It is the policy of Tompkins County to:
- Support economic development that provides high-quality employment opportunities with living wages and benefits.
- Promote the growth and development of local businesses and encourage the purchase of locally produced goods and services.
- Work with economic development agencies and institutions of higher education to diversify and expand the local economy and enhance community vitality.
- Promote innovation and technology transfer and attract and support people working to start and grow competitive businesses.
- Support quality of life measures that enhance the local business climate and attract employees.
- Promote development of a strong land-based rural economy.
- Provide opportunities to all residents to develop the skills necessary to obtain high-quality employment.
- Ensure the benefits and costs of economic development incentives are distributed equitably and there is an open and transparent process for decision-making.
Although the primary organization charged with facilitating county-wide economic planning is Ithaca Area Economic Development, the Tompkins County Department of Planning and Sustainability is actively involved in projects related to the economy.
Energy Focus Area Study
Tompkins County and the Tompkins County Industrial Development Agency funded a study to evaluate the energy infrastructure in four areas that are key to the community's economic development and where significant new development is anticipated in the next t0 years. The study evaluated electrical and natural gas infrastructure in downtown Ithaca including the waterfront district, on South Hill, on East Hill (Collegetown and the East Hill Plaza area), and along Warren Road north and south of the Ithaca-Tompkins County Airport. The study found that energy infrastructure should be adequate to support anticipated growth in all areas with the exception of natural gas in the area along Warren Road. The study also evaluated whether achieving efficiencies and transitioning to electric thermal energy for residential and commercial uses could free up natural gas capacity for projected industrial development in the Warren Road area and found that the potential exists to accommodate expected demand from industrial uses. The final Tompkins County Energy Focus Area Study (0.9 MB) is available.
Green Energy Incentives Assessment Project
The Tompkins County Industrial Development Agency offers tax abatements to specific new building development projects, for a variety of reasons, including economic development and promotion of higher density development. Given the desire to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in new construction, consideration is being given to providing incentives for green building design and construction, specifically to promote low-energy and low-carbon buildings. This project develops criteria and justification for such incentives. The project was informed by a series of conversations with developers, using specific projects as examples, to explore issues such as the level of energy efficiency developers typically seek without incentives, what further efficiency is possible, and associated returns on energy investments. The project then evaluated possible energy efficiency standards which could serve as energy goals for such incentives, and the associated level/range of incentives and concluded with recommending specific rating systems, and a measurement protocol to assess the success of the program.
Collaboration on Energy and Economic Development
Addressing our community’s energy needs while reducing greenhouse gas emissions poses an immense challenge that demands immediate action and developing a vibrant local economy that provides more good jobs is a top priority of County government. Tompkins County Area Development, the County’s designated economic development agency, and the Tompkins County Department of Planning and Sustainability, which provides analysis and planning to address community energy and greenhouse gas emissions, have agreed to collaborate on addressing long-term and immediate energy needs and emissions in ways that contribute to a vital local economy. This collaboration will include bringing a broad variety of voices to the discussion of community goals and strategies, as well as tangible steps to meet both energy and economic development goals. While both organizations believe that overall goals for strengthening the local economy and reaching our energy and greenhouse gas emissions targets are compatible and can be mutually reinforcing, we also recognize that there may be specific instances where they come into conflict. In such cases the County’s Energy Fund and the Industrial Development Agency’s Tax Incentive tools will be employed in an attempt to find a mutual gains solution to the perceived conflict. It is likely that some instances will arise where no clear mutually beneficial solution can be identified and, in such cases, the attempt to meet both goals will need to be weighed in making a decision. See a full description (96 KB) of this effort.
For the press release on this effort, see here (26 KB).