As healthcare workers in Tompkins County scramble to treat patients and save lives, city and county leaders are working overtime to help business owners hard hit by the COVID-19 crisis. In the city of Ithaca, leaders are taking proactive steps to help the city’s economy.
For years, the city’s economic prowess has been a model for many large and small cities in the Empire State.
“Over the past five years we’ve built the strongest economy in Upstate New York, the lowest unemployment rate and adding jobs the fastest, and now we’ve been completely devastated,” said Mayor Svante Myrick.
Like many other cities, towns and villages, Ithaca’s economy is expected to be crippled by COVID-10.
During a time when upcoming graduations at Cornell University and Ithaca College would fill hotels and restaurants, it’s been pretty quiet for local business owners.
“What was really devastating is students being sent home. We count on these next few months including the graduation ceremonies to generate a lot of income for people working in restaurants, bars and hotels,” Myrick said.
Downtown Ithaca is usually bustling with activity. Gary Ferguson, the executive director of the Downtown Ithaca Alliance, says that’s changed too.
“Most of our transactional businesses have closed down temporarily or have gone to a different way of doing commerce, so if you walk through our downtown commerce mall today it would be quiet, you won’t see a lot of people,” Ferguson said.
But there is a plan in place for a situation that’s evolving by the second.
“We’ve organized an economy recovery cabinet. It has the large businesses, small businesses, the banks, the colleges and universities,” said Myrick. “What we’ve been doing is figuring out what the need is. The ground is shifting very quickly and we want to be creative and proactive so that we aren’t chasing problems but staying ahead of the curve.”
The city of Ithaca is also making rooms available for homeless men, women and children.