The City of Ithaca recorded the highest job-growth rate in New York between 2002 and 2012, according to a recent report released by the New York state comptroller. Ithaca outdid New York City, the most populated area in the state, by 4.17 percent.
The “Employment Trends in New York State” report states that total employment in Ithaca rose 12.14 percent. Private employment grew by 11.96 percent, and government employment grew by 15.12 percent during the study’s 10-year span.
New York’s total increase in jobs during the decade was 3.99 percent, and its government employment declined by 2.12 percent, according to the trends report.
In Syracuse, the total employment rate declined by 1.44 percent. In the capital district, including Albany, the total employment rate rose by 1.21 percent.
Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick said he was pleased with the report, but there is more to achieve.
“I’m proud that we are the leading area for job growth in NYS, but I’m not yet satisfied that we’ve created as many jobs as we need to for people who live here,” Myrick said.
Tomas Harrington, general manager of Viva Taqueria & Cantina, just off The Commons on North Aurora Street, said the mayor has been making productive strides.
“The mayor has been doing a great job as far as getting some projects moving forward, he has really gotten things in motion,” Harrington said.
One such initiative spearheaded by Myrick is the ongoing construction across the City of Ithaca. Myrick said these projects have contributed significantly to the job growth in the area.
“But we can’t rely on construction forever,” he said. “There is a limit to our physical growth.”
Myrick said the presence of Ithaca College and Cornell University has played the most significant role in this job growth.
“The primary sector of job growth is education,” Myrick said. “We think the future will likely be a continued reliance on the education industry to push our economy and an expansion of service related jobs, an expansion in innovation related jobs.”
Elia Kacapyr, professor of economics at the college, said he has noticed this trend. Kacapyr said he is confident in his prediction that there will be 400 jobs created in the upcoming year. He said this growth would be attributed largely to the city’s educational institutions.
Sixty percent of current jobs in Ithaca can be attributed to health and educational services, Kacapyr said. The City of Ithaca is home to more than 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students attending Cornell University and Ithaca College. Myrick said the appeal of the educational institutes in the region help boost the city’s economy.
“Every year, Cornell University, Ithaca College and TC3 attract some of the best and the brightest minds in the country to Ithaca, and taking advantage of them while they’re here is going to help our economy,” he said. “But, we want to convince them to stay and start a business while they’re still here instead of taking their degree, graduating and leaving here.”
Kacapyr also said the collective intelligence among the people in the City of Ithaca has contributed immensely to the rising and stable economy by creating jobs in higher education.
However, Myrick said while jobs are increasing in the City of Ithaca, underemployment is still a concern. He said the problem is that there may not be enough local jobs available for the number of people who qualify.
“The issue with underemployment is that we do have well-educated people who want to live here,” Myrick said.
Brad Treat, a temporary contest administrator in the School of Business at the college and the Founder and CEO of the technologically based company Mezmeriz Incorporated, said people are drawn to the City of Ithaca.
He said this draw to the city will, in time, bring about more business and therefore produce more jobs and boost the economy even further.
Another trend that Treat said may go unnoticed is the idea that people now have jobs that are less location dependent. He said with new technology, regardless of the home base of the company, employees can work almost anywhere.
Similarly, Myrick said technology enables a sector of job growth that would otherwise be nearly impossible.
“One of the issues for anybody looking to start a business in Ithaca is that it is a relatively isolated location,” Myrick said. “It’s hard to get people in and out, and it’s hard to get goods in and out of Ithaca … But, if you’re selling ideas, software, a website, a network, those things can be shipped all over the world, no matter where you are including Ithaca.”
Treat also said many people see the success of people already present in the city and are inspired to come to Ithaca to create their own.
“There is a real magnifying effect,” Treat said.