ITHACA, N.Y. — With several local development projects coming to a head, Tompkins County is facing significant economic growth in upcoming years paired with workforce challenges, as outlined in an annual report from Tompkins County Area Development on Wednesday.
The 2018 annual report showed there has been local economic growth over the past few years and outlined several recent development projects — such as City Centre and Harold’s Square downtown — and the challenges and benefits the county may face moving forward.
TCAD President Michael B. Stamm said the development agency established its goals and outcomes for investments after launching its fundraiser drive more than five years ago.
“With respect to the payroll, within four of the five years, we’ve already exceeded our goal of $45 million and greatly exceeded our goal of $450 million in new capital investments after just four years.”
Based on the report, progress in the past four years has brought in $47 million in new payroll dollars, and $629 million dollars in new capital investments. While investments appear to be paying off, Stamm said the county is facing workforce challenges, meeting only 80 percent of their goal to open up 750 new jobs.
“The challenge we face here is that companies want to hire people but can’t find the people to hire,” Stamm said. “We have tremendous workforce challenges with greater organizations like Cornell University and Ithaca College down to small high-tech start-ups – this is something that we as a community really need to work on.”
One problem impacting the national workforce is companies evolving to manufacturing goods using more technology. Stamm said employers need a smarter workforce, but can’t find entry-level employees as easily as they should nor attract higher-level engineers, managers and faculty to the community as easily as they hoped.
Despite challenges the county faces as far as employment, Stamm previewed several development projects happening both in downtown Ithaca and spread out within the county.
Both City Centre and Harold’s Square came up with major property tax returns predicted in the next decade. City Centre, located on the edge of the Ithaca Commons, is a 218,211 square foot complex which will include 192 apartments and a mix of commercial and retail spaces on the ground floor. The eight-story building will run on renewable energy and energy efficient appliances including air source heating pumps.
City Centre, a $53 million dollar investment, is predicted to make over $3 million in new property taxes within the first 10 years even with the abatement.
“The downside of this project is that as this goes up, it blocks my view of the Marriott from my office, which was another one of our projects,” Stamm said. “This is a really wonderful project, I think it’s going to be a great addition to downtown.”
Along with City Centre, Harold’s Square will create 108 additional rental units in the middle of The Commons. The renovations will replace several empty buildings to include commercial and retail spaces along with residential apartments.
The $43 million dollar project is expected to make approximately $3.4 million in property taxes over the next decade, and will also include energy-saving measures to meet carbon emission reduction goals.
In addition to the two housing development projects, Stamm outlined expected returns for several other projects in the works. The Canopy by Hilton is expected to bring in $3.3 million in the first decade, along with the Tompkins Trust Company corporate building which will consolidate nearly 300 employees and bring in $3.3 million in taxes.
“All these downtown projects, even with the short-term abatements, will pay a tremendous amount of property taxes to our school districts, the city, the county and of course all of those institutions are stressed with budget issues,” Stamm said.
As Stamm wrapped up details of the report, he also outlined several upcoming projects in the works, including airport expansion and several small and large-scale solar projects. As 2018 progresses and the several housing development projects begin to wrap up, TCAD’s work is still not over.