"Brain drain"--the exodus upon graduation of the young, educated future workers and aspiring entrepreneurs who attend the many universities in Upstate New York--has been a hot topic for years among legislators, economic development agencies, and lifelong residents of the region. With the loss of the American manufacturing jobs that employed previous generations, jobs in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), are the new hope for revitalizing communities and keeping young people in Upstate New York. Much planning and effort has been put toward initiatives that create jobs and support growing companies in a new "knowledge economy".
On the macro-level, state and regional organizations are heavily invested in building New York's knowledge economy. These include:
LaunchNY, a non-profit venture development organization working to "catalyze the entrepreneurial culture of Upstate New York".
Empire State Development, a government agency that offers business incentive programs like StartupNY.
CenterState Corporation for Economic Opportunity (CenterState CEO), whose Essential New York Initiative aims "to accelerate the transition of the CenterState New York region to a knowledge-based economy."
Manifestations of a thriving knowledge economy in Upstate New York are now being realized at the community level too. In Upstate New York's Southern Tier, a small but active community of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, with support from Tompkins County Area Development (TCAD) and local higher education institutions, are creating an emerging Tech Hub in Ithaca, NY.
Ithaca, NY, a small city with a metropolitan population of around 100,000, is widely known for its scenic waterfalls and gorges (does "Ithaca is Gorges" ring a bell?). Ithaca is also known as home to Cornell University, Ithaca College and a handful of other universities nearby. Technology companies like Singlebrook, a custom web development agency founded in Ithaca almost a decade ago, benefit from the proximity to the universities through the talented workforce they attract to an otherwise isolated part of New York.
When Singlebrook, along with Buffalo-based IVR Technology Group, founded the Ithaca Venture Community (IVC) in 2012, the Ithaca tech entrepreneurship scene was just taking shape. Over the past several years, the City has seen a crop of co-working spaces open for business including, Studio West, Common Spot, Co-Lab Cooperative, and Stream Collaborative. In late 2014, downtown Ithaca also became home to a brand new incubator, Rev: Ithaca Startup Works. Rev functions as a community meeting place and offers some of the benefits and mentoring opportunities found in accelerator programs like Syracuse's StartFast. Entrepreneurs, technologists, business professionals and students in the area have formed a vibrant and still-growing community. This community around tech entrepreneurship is putting the Ithaca Tech Hub on the map, and the hope is that more startups and investors will join in while opportunities are at their prime.
Members of the Ithaca tech entrepreneurship community gather at free events like Ithaca Web People, Ithaca Generator, and Ithaca Drupal meetups. IVC's Ithaca Tech Meetups have also seen a surge in popularity thanks to support from local businesses and from the regional economic development agency, TCAD. Local support also comes from Ithaca's young, innovative mayor, Svante Myrick, who's helping to build and support the ecosystem for entrepreneurship in the area, with a focus on job growth. The venture funding landscape is growing too, and currently includes, Seed Capital Fund of CNY, Cayuga Venture Fund, and newcomers, Armory Square Ventures, out of Syracuse. Tying it all together is Upstate Venture Connect (UVC), an organization for regional networking among Upstate NY knowledge economy-based communities.
It's an exciting time to for tech entrepreneurship in Upstate New York! A strong foundation and growing momentum, powered by entrepreneurs and State and Regional initiatives, have set the stage to make Ithaca, NY the next great Tech Hub.