Tompkins Weekly

IAED’s TH!NK TOMPKINS initiative achieves nearly two-thirds of its goal



Heather McDaniel, president of Ithaca Area Economic Development, speaks at an event the organization hosted Thursday to thank private investors and kick off their “Th!nk Tompkins” Initiative. Photo provided.

“It’s been a busy summer,” said Heather McDaniel, president of Ithaca Area Economic Development, on Thursday.

The organization celebrated the results of that busy summer and the months that came beforehand at an event Thursday evening at Tompkins Community Bank, where McDaniel and others announced the official launch of TH!NK TOMPKINS, IAED’s five-year investment initiative.

The fundraising efforts will not conclude until the end of 2023, but already the IAED has raised 65 percent of its goal of $2.1 million.

Roughly one-third of the organization’s budget comes from community organizations and businesses.

Outside of Tompkins County, Cornell was the largest investor, giving IAED a five-year commitment of $460,000 over the next five years.

“Cornell is so pleased to continue to support IAED’s critical work of fostering economic growth and workforce development in Tompkins County,” said Joel M. Malina, Cornell’s Vice President for University Relations.

McDaniel said Cornell’s investment speaks to their long-term partnership and collaboration, “and that they believe in the work we do,” McDaniel said, adding that the IAED’s efforts help make the county a more attractive place to live; therefore, high quality faculty and staff members are more willing to relocate.

“And then they all become a part of our community fabric,” McDaniel said.

The $2.1 million goal represents about one-third of the organization’s proposed budget over the next five years.

“Our goal strategy is to hit our goal by the end of the year so we know we’ve secured enough in pledges for the next five years,” McDaniel said.

“We only go out [to fundraise] once every five years,” she explained, “so in the interim we can focus on what we really do.”

One-hundred percent of the pledges go toward IAED’s operations.

Plans for next year include the hire of one additional workforce program manager, growing the office from five to six employees.

McDaniel said that to her(remove to her) one of the most exciting ongoing IAED projects is a direct-to-work program. “It’s an entry level manufacturing training program that was designed by the manufacturers themselves,” McDaniel said, “so it’s putting people to work on a small scale, but we want to grow that program, not only in the manufacturing sector but also in the construction trades.”

“Our mission is to help create a thriving and sustainable economy, and who really are the beneficiaries of the work we do? As the economy grows and we are putting people into good, well-paying job opportunities, that grows the pie for everybody,” McDaniel said, “and it creates a demand for services.”

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