The city lost out on $10 million in state aid, but the validation it received from a high-ranking state official Thursday regarding plans for business and economic growth shows Cortland has what money can’t buy: vision and dedication.
Lt. Gov. Kathleen Hochul visited with city officials and business owners Thursday to take stock of what Cortland is doing to support business and enhance the local economy.
Hochul stopped by the Cortland Junior-Senior High School earlier that morning to support its summer meals program. But she said she also came to Cortland to see what has been done to attract and encourage small businesses and entrepreneurs to invest in the city and promote economic growth.
“Part of my job as lieutenant governor … is to visit communities,” Hochul said after a brief tour of downtown, “find out what their needs are, how they’re doing.”
To be sure, $10 million — which went to Oswego for downtown renovations and improvements of its own — would have been a big help, Tobin said, but it could not buy more of what the city already has: dedicated people trying to expand opportunities and growth.
City and business leaders greeted Hochul outside the NBT bank building where office space renovations and technology upgrades are underway as part of the $7.2 million McNeil Co. Inc. campus expansion before going in to talk with company stakeholder David McNeil about the project.
She also chatted with developer Dave Yaman who is working on joint office space and housing at the former Crescent Corset building at 165-177 Main St., and Sam Braine, a young entrepreneur and co-owner of Long Island Bagel which, with the help of a small business grant from the Cortland County Business Development Corp., has become part of the downtown dining scene since opening in 2014.
After that, Mayor Brian Tobin took Hochul to Main and Tompkins streets and gave her the condensed history of the iconic clock tower building and noted the ski lift bench nearby used as part of the Ski Cortland marketing initiative.
Hochul mentioned she loved visiting local diners, which necessitated a quick stop at Frank and Mary’s Diner before wrapping up her visit in the lobby of Cortland Repertory Theatre on Port Watson Street.
Hochul said between the investments downtown and how the city is supporting and growing small business, Cortland is an example of what others can do to spur growth.
“There’s a sense of vitality, excitement,” she said. “I’m looking at Cortland as really a model of what other communities can do and follow this template for bringing back downtowns.”
“It’s a pleasure and an honor to have someone that high up in state government come in and … getting the opportunity to see what we’re doing,” Tobin said.
The city had been in the running to receive $10 million in state aid through Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative competition but lost to Oswego.
People hoped Hochul would announce Cortland won the $10 million grant — which Cuomo visited Oswego to announce. But Tobin said having a state official say she approves of what’s been done to support business and growth shows the city is on the right track.
“Money will do some things, but the real way to get things done is to have a community that cares and people actively working toward positive, tangible solutions,” Tobin said. “What we need are the people here that keep us moving forward as a city and that’s what we have.”