Tompkins County Area Development (NY) – Target Industry Analysis / Target Marketing Assistance

Challenge Tompkins County is uniquely situated within New York State. The natural beauty of Cayuga Lake and the area’s numerous gorges as well as the progressive attitude of Ithaca and the growing number of restaurants and cultural amenities make the area a very attractive one. Quality of life advantages, however, do not necessarily translate to business advantages. Like much of upstate New York, Tompkins County faces significant barriers to business growth, including one of the highest tax burdens in the country. Cornell University is a significant asset for Tompkins County. While it is tempting to say that the university’s intellectual and research capacity changes everything, it would be misleading to do so; however, it has dramatically changed the climate for entrepreneurship. Few, if any, communities the size of Ithaca can boast the same success with start-up companies, technology transfer and commercialization, or venture capital funding. Cornell’s presence enables Tompkins County to enter the recruitment game in a wholly different way. In recognition of this fact, TIP Strategies was engaged to craft a business recruitment strategy that would take advantage of Cornell’s resources, enhance the community-university economic development partnership, and create a magnet for successful business development.

ApproachTIP’s work was part of a larger target marketing initiative undertaken by Tompkins County Area Development (TCAD), the lead economic development agency. TCAD’s partners in this effort included Cornell University and NYSEG, the gas and electric provider for parts of upstate and southern New York. The initiative is a reflection of TCAD’s interest in shifting resources from business retention, expansion, and entrepreneurship, to an active recruitment effort. This initiative was intended to spur new private sector investment in the area and create quality jobs for local residents. TIP was asked to evaluate TCAD’s target industry sectors, identify companies within those industries, and help craft a means to reach those companies. To accomplish this task, we conducted interviews with local businesses and Cornell faculty and staff, as well as economic development professionals and university officials in similarly situated communities. We also surveyed technology companies located outside the Ithaca area. This survey allowed us to better understand the relative importance of various site location factors and gauge perceptions of Ithaca as a potential expansion site.

OutcomeThere is little question that the “brand” recognition of the Cornell name and the stream of businesses that pass through its facilities represent a tremendous advantage for Tompkins County. In addition, the talent pool the university attracts helps to offset some of the limitations associated with operating in rural upstate New York. To leverage the advantage Cornell offers, TIP provided TCAD and its partners with specific marketing strategies for reaching the companies within their target industry sectors. These strategies included co-op marketing, direct mail, and a targeted print campaign highlighting research facilities at Cornell. We built a model that leveraged the numerous Cornell-related events and conferences as the most effective form of economic development marketing for Ithaca. The long-term effectiveness of these initiatives will tie directly to TCAD’s relationship with Cornell University.

TIP Contact Jon Roberts