Economic Data

TCAD nurtures emerging high-growth businesses by building relationships early with founders, educating the commercial brokerage community about the needs of startups here, and sponsoring meetups with the entrepreneurs. New York State and Tompkins County offer business incentives to encourage investments that drive business growth and job creation. The incentives are available individually, or bundled as part of a comprehensive program. All government incentive programs are aimed at helping companies retain jobs by enhancing their operating effectiveness, or to create new jobs through business growth and expansion. Ithaca is not far from larger urban markets, with Rochester, Syracuse, and Albany nearby; Philadelphia, Boston and New York City a few more hours away and Toronto and Montreal just over the border.
The Tompkins County economy outperforms many other communities in New York State. In fact, many of our businesses sell to both national and international customers. Technology related firms thrive around Ithaca and startups and expansions reflect the vitality of a broad range of sectors including biotechnology, electronics, and software with specialties ranging from food chemistry to microfluidic systems. Cutting edge ventures, alternative enterprise, and just plain good business ideas are enthusiastically received. Tompkins County startups can attract venture capital from national and international sources. Whether your market is around the corner or around the world, Ithaca is a great place for your business.


Tompkins County Traded Sectors

The total gross product of the Tompkins County economy is about $9 billion.  That is divided nearly evenly between local sectors that provide goods and services to local residents, and traded sectors. This report focuses on the traded sectors — the wealth generating sectors of the economy, which sell their goods and services outside the County and often outside the region.

Read more.

Tompkins County Local Sectors

This report focuses on the local sectors. Real estate, government (including public education), and health and social services are the three largest actors in terms of gross output, each generating over $500 million. Read More


A highly skilled workforce is available to local businesses, with the three area colleges and universities providing a strong recruiting pool. Tompkins County is a regional employment center for workers from surrounding communities, and thus there is always a ready labor supply. The area also attracts experienced and skilled workers from afar for specialized employment opportunities.
The Tompkins County economic profile transformed from a durable goods manufacturing community in the 1960’s to an education center by the 1980’s. Since the 1980’s, technology firms producing high-tech products, equipment, services, and software applications have had an expanding role in local economic growth, while traditional durable goods manufacturing continues to have an important, though diminished role. Health, tourism, agriculture, and an array of business and personal services round out the primarily knowledge-driven economy.

Top Ten Occupations in Tompkins County

In 2014 the average annual wage for all occupations in Tompkins County was $45,700. The highest paid occupation category was Management with an average of $98,100, and the lowest Food Prep & Service averaging $21,700. The occupation category in greatest demand was Education Training and Library needing about 250 new entrants annually, followed by Office and Administrative support (170) new entrants, Food Prep and Serving (165), and Sales (135). Healthcare practitioners and technical (90) and Management (85) have the next level of demand for new entrants.

The very large group of Education, Training and Library Occupations is comprised of:


Bubble chart showing the Top Ten Occupation Categories in Tompkins County (2014)

Tompkins County Workforce Development Board

TCAD maintains a close partnership with the Tompkins County Workforce Development Board (WDB), and one-stop career center Tompkins Workforce NY. The WDB offers a comprehensive approach to workforce development. TCAD and WDB regularly visit with businesses to understand their business challenges. Finding the right employees is often a key issue. TCAD and WDB have also collaborated to create a workforce strategy that was released in 2010, available here.


The Changing Workforce Development Environment

Workforce development is a critical economic development activity. Both basic-skilled workers and workers with specific occupational skill sets are fundamental for the local economy to succeed.

In the workplace, technology has replaced many low-skilled jobs that used to provide family-supporting incomes and benefits. Today’s “basic-skilled” jobs tend to be in service occupations, working with the public. Thus, they require communication skills, ability to make decisions, teamwork skills, and high levels of integrity. Traditional blue-collar jobs in manufacturing, maintenance, or healthcare support occupations now require computer skills and ability to follow complex management or regulatory protocols.

Changing demographics require continuing change in the delivery of education and training. According to the US Census and Woods and Poole projections, the workforce-age population in Tompkins County was 85% white, and primarily native-born in 2000. By 2020 it is projected to drop to 75%. At the same time, the primarily white baby-boomer cohort, which is highly educated, will be well into a retirement surge. Equity in educational achievement remains a challenge for minority populations nationally and locally.[1] Tompkins County schools and training programs are developing new approaches to prepare these diverse populations in career-readiness. For example Ithaca City School District increased its on-time graduation rate from 84% in 2014 to 94% in 2016. A new career oriented high-school, serving the County’s six school districts and beyond, will be initiated in the fall of 2018.

Workforce Development and Economic Development

The primary focus of the workforce development system is connecting local employers and the local labor market. However, a number of key occupations require specialized training and experience. Those occupations, such as professors, medical specialists, and technology or management professionals are often recruited from regional or even national labor markets.

TCAD’s 2015-2020 Economic Development Strategy identifies specific objectives that increase alignment between workforce development and economic development partners.

Objective B.1: Improve access to better labor market information for employed workers, job seekers and the emerging workforce.

Objective B.2: Foster greater engagement of employers in workforce development efforts.

Objective B.3: Strengthen the workforce development system.

Learn more about the Economic Development Strategy here.

[1] Separate and Unequal, July 31, 2013, Anthony Carnevale and Jeff Strohl, ICSD report card graduation rates.



Startup Community

“The Startup community in Ithaca is supportive and welcoming. Collectively, we have a massive amount of experience amongst the entrepreneurs here, and we are willing to share those experiences with others.” Brad Treat, Entrepreneur in Residence, Rev

The startup community brings together University, city and private sector partners to make Ithaca the best place to launch and grow a startup. The goal is to motivate the founders to anchor their growing businesses in the town closest to their source of inspiration. With a strong entrepreneurial spirit, cutting edge ventures, alternative enterprise, and just plain good business ideas are enthusiastically received. Entrepreneurs and inventors profit from numerous business supports and startup incentives. Growing companies can find sophisticated accounting and legal services nearby — including intellectual property protection. Local real estate developers provide turn-key solutions for high tech companies such as building facilities with wet labs and clean rooms.
TCAD continues to support the growth of existing companies and accelerate new business startups. We’re creating opportunities to keep entrepreneurs in the community and provide them a pathway to success.

  • 45% have won competitive federal SBIR awards – over $50 million in competitive federal SBIR funding since 2005.
  • 80% of Ithaca area startups have a significant Cornell connection (license, facility use, research partnership).
  • Area has twelve times the national hit rate on SBIR awards per capita since 2005 (by $).
  • With over ten-times the national average spending per capita, fundamental R&D is Tompkins County’s biggest natural resource for startup companies.

Small Business Development Council (SBDC)

TCAD worked with the SBDC at Binghamton University to establish a one-year pilot initiative placing a full-time technology business advisor in Ithaca.  The pilot was so successful the initiative has continued.  Lindsay Wolf is the SBDC Certified Business Advisor.  Click here to schedule an appointment with Ms. Wolf.


Ithaca Venture Community

Inspired by the innovation and activity in Ithaca, the Ithaca Venture Community (IVC) has been a grassroots volunteer group with a mission of bringing together students and professional entrepreneurs in Ithaca to provide networking and growth opportunities.

Additional information may be found on the IVC’s Meet up page.


Rev: Ithaca Startup Works

Rev is a business incubator and the latest addition to our growing entrepreneurial ecosystem. Rev offers entrepreneurs a place to grow their business, providing access to expert advice and business development at an accelerated pace.

For more information, you can visit their website at