November 30, 2021

Cortland County ready for Phase 3 reopening

Governments, agencies pitch in for marketing effort as state gives OK for Phase 3

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect state approval this afternoon to begin Phase 3.

As Cortland County heads toward Phase 3 of reopening on Friday — opening restaurants to indoor dining and personal care services such as nail salons and tattoo shops the Business Development Corp. is spearheading a campaign to help restart Cortland County’s economy.

“The idea is kind of two-fold,” said Bob Haight, the executive director of the Cortland County Chamber of Commerce, which is working with the BDC on the project. “We want businesses to know where to go to get all the resources so they can open safely and know what the requirements are and who they can communicate locally with to get those answers. We want the community to understand that our local businesses are doing this safely, meeting state guidelines and taking precautions for employees and customers.”

The idea is to boost business and reignite the county economy. The county expects huge losses in sales tax revenue if it cannot generate more sales in the area.

“We all have a role to play in making sure we rebound from this as completely as possible,” Garry VanGorder, the executive director of the BDC, said in an email this morning.

Cortland County received guidance for the reopening earlier this week in advance of the announcement, which came this afternoon that Central New York can enter Phase 3 on Friday, two weeks after entering Phase 2. That’s the earliest date the county could progress to Phase 3. It, and the rest of Central New York, are among five upstate New York regions that have announced they’re ready for the next step.

The guidance was issued earlier than during the move to Phase 2, when many counties across upstate New York hadn’t received the information the night before the move, leading several counties to announce delays.

The preparations come even as the Cortland Common Council voted to close off some streets downtown to allow residents to serve more patrons outdoors, a change that came last week and — other than takeout and delivery orders — the only way restaurants have been able to serve patrons since March.

The guidelines the county issued would allow restaurants to have 50% capacity. But they — as well as nail salons, tattoo parlors and spas — would need to require 6-foot social distancing. Waiting rooms would be closed and surfaces must be wiped down after they are used.

Several municipalities and organizations gave the BDC money to hire Stephen Donnelly & Associates, a marketing agency from Owego.

VanGorder said the agency was originally brought in to help produce a public information campaign for the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative for the city of Cortland.

However, the original partners for that plan — BDC, the Cortland County Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Cortland County Chamber of Commerce and the city — decided the more immediate need was addressing the coronavirus effect on the economy.

“The DRI campaign will be re-evaluated and perhaps put in place at a later date,” VanGorder said.

VanGorder said that a total of $27,500 was provided.

The BDC contributed $10,000. Cortland County Legislature Chairman Paul Heider (R-Cuyler, Solon, Truxton) said the county was contributing $5,000 from a professional services budget line. The Cortland Common Council voted Wednesday, 5-3, to add $2,000. The Homer Village Board voted unanimously Tuesday to provide $1,500.

Van Gorder also said the chamber gave $2,500, Cortlandville $1,500 and the visitors bureau $5,000.

“I think it’s a great thing to get people out and going again and jumpstart the economy after this,” said village Mayor Darren “Hal” McCabe.