Finger Lakes Regional Prosperity Network (FLRPnet)

Finger Lakes Regional Prosperity Network

Finger Lakes Regional Prosperity Network (FLRPnet) (formerly known as TCAD Foundation) is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization that was created by TCAD in 2013 to extend the capacity and reach of economic development efforts in the Finger Lakes region.

Mission: Improve the economic condition of the region particularly of underserved and economically isolated people.

Vision: Economic prosperity for the region.

FLRPnet seeks to catalyze, plan, develop partnerships, and build funding for projects where there is a common economic development mission across multiple counties in the Finger Lakes region. We aim to create wealth that stays local, improve the livelihoods of rural communities, and sustain the assets of the region.

FLRPnet’s first major initiative is a regional business incubation program targeting the food-processing sector, FoodBIP.

FLRPnet Brochure

FLRPnet Activites:

Regional Prosperity: Collaboration Across Boundaries (October 2016)

The Finger Lakes Regional Prosperity Network hosted a one day forum to gain critical engagement for their rural wealth creation initiative. The forum brought together agricultural, business, economic development, non-profit, education, and government leadership from 12 rural counties of NY (Broome, Cayuga, Chemung, Chenango, Cortland, Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tioga, Tompkins, Yates).

A specific objective of the forum was to inspire engagement in implementing a regional food-processing business incubation program. The program intends to network and leverage existing resources in the food sector as well as fill service gaps. The forum provided a key opportunity to connect with regional partners who can contribute resources, knowledge and ideas to make the food sector incubation program a success.

The keynote address was made by Leslie Schaller, Director of Programs at the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks, a model regional development agency serving 32 rural counties of Ohio since 1985.

FLRPnet Board of Directors

Daniel J. Fessenden (Chair)

Dan Fessenden serves as the Executive Director of the Fred L. Emerson Foundation, a fourth-generation family foundation located in Auburn, New York. Previously, Dan was the founding Executive Director of the Cornell Agriculture & Food Technology Park, and a member of the government relations team for the Carrier Corporation. Dan also served as a member of the New York State Assembly from 1993 to 1999. Dan has been actively engaged with various business, civic and educational organizations throughout the Central New York region, and currently serves as a Director of the Tompkins Financial Corporation, Tompkins Trust Company, and Midstate Mutual Insurance Company. He has also served on the board of several charitable organizations including the Seward House Museum, Wells College, and the American Agriculturist Foundation.

Lou Walcer (Vice –Chair)

Lou Walcer was appointed in June 2011 as the first Director of the Kevin M. McGovern Family Center For Venture Development in the Life Sciences at Cornell University. Lou came to this role with a track record of building and launching new products and new ventures as a Marketing/Business Development/New Product Development Director and Consultant to Merck, Schering-Plough and Wyeth; as Officer and Consultant to many Biotech/Medical Device companies; as President of the medical device drug delivery company Medimop USA; and as a Consultant to and Senior Commercialization Officer at Cleveland Clinic Innovations. Lou earned a B.A. degree from Cornell University’s College of Arts & Sciences, and a Master of Business Administration from New York University’s Stern School.

Gene Yarussi (Treasurer)

Gene Yarussi served as President and CEO of Emerson Power Transmission
(EPT) between 1989 and 2006 capping a 42-year career. Under his leadership, EPT made several U.S. and foreign acquisitions and positioned the company to operate as one cohesive organization. Since retirement, Gene has consulted with several local start up ventures and has extensive public service. He has served, is currently serving, or consulted with: The Sciencenter,TC-3 Foundation, Racker Centers, Family and Children’s Service, Challenge, Love Living  at Home, Congregational Church and Tompkins Public Library.

Jeannette Frank (Secretary)

Jeannette Frank is Executive Director of The Arc of Schuyler in Watkins Glen, NY a
nonprofit that provides supports for people with disabilities. The Arc operates a vocational training center, Glen Industries, specializing in co-packing of dry food products and bottling of hot and cold acidified and low acidified foods for small scale producers. Jeannette has over 35 years of programmatic and administrative leadership experience in the field of developmental disabilities. Through partnership agreements, she has been instrumental in opening up some of The Arc’s services to the general public. Examples are operation of the county public transit system (Schuyler County Transit), county mobility management information help line (Transportation Link Line), and a community arts center (Franklin Street Gallery and Gift Shop).  She currently serves on the Board of Directors for SCOPED (Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development), Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben Workforce, NY and the Finger Lakes Collaborative, a consortium of 13 regional Arc Chapters. Jeannette earned her bachelor’s in Social Work from The College of Saint Rose in Albany.

Greg Hartz

Mr. Hartz has been the President and Chief Executive Officer of Tompkins Trust Company, and Executive Vice President of Tompkins Financial Corporation since January 01, 2007.  Prior to his current role, he was a Senior Vice President of Tompkins Trust Company, with responsibility for Tompkins Investment Services since 2002. Mr. Hartz has been a Director of Tompkins Trust Company since January 1, 2007.  Mr. Hartz is a native of Ithaca having graduated from Ithaca High School and Cornell University.  In addition to serving on the board of TCAD he serves on the boards of Cayuga Medical Center and Cayuga Health System, and The Legacy Foundation.

Natasha Thompson

Natasha R. Thompson is the President & CEO of the Food Bank of the Southern Tier in Elmira, NY.  She has over 20 years of experience in food banking having started her career as an Americorps*VISTA volunteer in 1997.  Natasha has been with the Food Bank of the Southern Tier since 2001 and in her current role since 2008.  Under her leadership, the Food Bank was recognized in 2017 as Feeding America’s Food Bank of the Year. Natasha holds a BA in Psychology & Religion and an MBA, both from the University of Rochester.  She has served as the Chair of the Food Bank Association of New York State and a member of Feeding America’s National Council of food banks.

Charlie Trautmann

Dr. Trautmann helps museums and other non-profit organizations increase their effectiveness through visioning, strategic planning, and improved management. He has published over 120 management articles and has served on dozens of local, national, and international non-profit boards and commissions. He has been awarded three Alexander von Humboldt Fellowships to pursue research on management and engineering in Germany.
Charlie served on the TCAD board from 1996 to 2018, and was board chair from 2009 to 2012.  Most recently, he chaired the Energy and Economic Development Task Force, a TCAD initiative charged with envisioning an improved energy future for Tompkins County.
Charlie is Director Emeritus of the Sciencenter, an educational science museum in Ithaca, NY, and a visiting scholar in the department of psychology at Cornell University. During his tenure as Director, the Sciencenter won three international Leading Edge Awards for Innovative Business Practice at Museums and grew from a small start-up to a nationally recognized organization serving over one million visitors annually through its exhibitions and programs.
Charlie is married to Nancy Trautmann, former Director of Education at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. He has two children: Nina, associate director of the China program at Cornell, and Eric, a postdoc  in neuroscience at Columbia.

FLRPnet Contact:
(607) 273-0005
401 East State St., Suite 402B
Ithaca, NY 14850

For news about economic development in the Finger Lakes read the Locate Finger Lakes Business Journal

Food Processing Business Incubation Program

The Finger Lakes Food Business Incubator Program (FoodBIP) is a new program that connects Finger Lakes food and beverage manufacturing entrepreneurs with the resources they need to succeed. Since early 2019, FoodBIP offers business services including individualized technical assistance, mentorship, resource matchmaking, marketing and business consulting, and an online information portal for growing food businesses.

In 2019, our focus is on farm, kitchen, and factory-based businesses that are:

  • manufacturing specialty foods or beverages
  • based in or around Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, and Tompkins counties
  • wholesaling or intending to wholesale to a larger market (regional and beyond)

For more information, please contact FoodBIP or visit

Funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission, Tompkins County Development Corporation, and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County provides initial support for the program serving Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, and Tompkins Counties. In 2020, the program will expand to serve a 9-county Finger Lakes region.

FoodBIP News:

USDA Awards Grant to Expand FoodBIP Program (August 2019)
The USDA has approved an $86,500 Rural Business Development Grant to the Finger Lakes Regional Prosperity Network. The grant will fund the Food Processing Business Incubation Program (FoodBIP) for 12 months, through 2020. FoodBIP will be able to expand its industry-specific technical assistance to small and emerging food and beverage processing businesses to a nine-county Finger Lakes region. This project builds on FoodBIP’s four-county pilot during 2019.
FoodBIP Director Appointed (December 2018)
The Finger Lakes Regional Prosperity Network and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County announced on November 27th the appointment of Amina Omari as the founding Director of the Food Processing Business Incubation Program (FoodBIP). Ms. Omari will be responsible for developing and managing a dynamic technical assistance program for the Finger Lakes food manufacturing sector.
Ms. Omari has over 18 years of experience in the food and beverage sector, most recently as Chief Operating Officer of Gimme! Coffee. She brings extensive experience in every aspect of business development. FoodBIP will launch in December. Press Release

FoodBIP Pilot Receives Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) Award (April 2018)

Ithaca, NY (4/25/18) – Congressman Tom Reed announced that the Appalachian Regional Commission has approved a $67,728 grant to the Finger Lakes Regional Prosperity Network (aka TCAD Foundation) for a pilot Food Processing Business Incubation Program (FoodBIP). FoodBIP is a technical support program for the local food and beverage manufacturing sector. “This grant will help manufacturers build necessary connections that will give them a fair chance in the food industry and allow them to grow. I care about bringing more jobs to our region and with this program, I believe that goal can be achieved,” Reed said.

Read full press release


Food Processing Strategy (2015-2017)

The food-processing sector is growing significantly in the Finger Lakes, yet businesses are facing hurdles to commercialization and scaling up to larger markets. FLRPnet’s 2016 report Needs Assessment and Strategy for a Food-Processing Business Incubation Program looks at how to support this important industry and accelerate its growth.

Based on the study results, FLRPnet is building a food processing business incubation program (FoodBIP).  The most recent step is completion of the business plan: Recommendations for the Configuration of a Food Processing Business Incubation Program.