Business Bites: Helping teachers, help yourself


Tompkins County is lucky enough to be blessed with a strong economy and plenty of businesses doing great things. Business Bites is a snapshot of local business news from across the county to help you stay up to date on what’s happening in our local economy.

Winter Recess Festival returns
From Feb. 15 to 24 Ithaca will play host to teachers from across the state, and beyond, as Winter Recess returns for its 14th year. The festival was the brainchild of the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce former director and a chamber member and was created to celebrate the community’s strong ties to education and give back to the individuals that give the most to education: teachers. The break that public education teachers get in February also coincides with a lull in local tourism, so the festival was a win-win for local businesses and educators.

“We’re able to track about $150,000 worth of economic impact on the local community,” said Jodi LaPierre, Director of Visitor Experiences with the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce. That estimate, she said, was likely on the lower end.

For local businesses, Winter Recess can bring in a lot of new customers. Around 76 percent of the teachers surveyed last year indicated that they experienced a new business that they otherwise would not have gone into if it weren’t for the events and deals offered during the festival.

The celebration isn’t just for teachers in New York State. LaPierre said that teachers have come from as far away as Hawaii to spend Winter Recess in Ithaca. While many come from neighboring states, there are still a few that travel in from Florida and California, trading in the warmer temperatures for a good time.

Events, local deals, contests, and all the necessary information for Winter Recess can found at

YMCA kicks off member drive
This month, the YMCA of Ithaca and Tompkins county kicked off their membership drive. This year’s theme: There’s an ember in every member. While it’s easy to go with a heart theme in February, seeing as Valentine’s Day falls right in the middle of the month, the YMCA wanted something a bit different this year.

“We’re really talking about trying to spark that little piece of you within that intrinsic motivation for health and wellness, and creating that idea of warmth during the cold months,” said Gregg Houck, Membership director. “You’re not just heating up your body, strengthening your body, you’re also engaged. You’re lit.”

For all of February, the YMCA is offering this promotion for new members: commit to a three-month membership and get the fourth month for free. New members are people who have never had a membership with the YMCA, or someone who has been inactive for at least a year. Current members will receive a bonus of a $10 gift card for Ithaca Coffee Company, or a bag of Forty Weight coffee if they refer a new member.

During the drive, there will be more volunteers available to conduct tours of the facility for people interested in a new membership. Interested parties are encouraged to stop into the Welcome Center or call Houck at (607) 257-0101.
(As part of Winter Recess, the YMCA will be offering free access for all Tompkins County teachers and a 50 percent discount for teachers outside of the county.)

2019 Economic Summit
Last Thursday the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce and Tompkins County Area Development (TCAD), along with local members and partners, met for this year’s economic summit to present key local issues and policies affecting the business community, as well as forecast challenges and opportunities for business and job growth.

A new initiative by the Chamber and its members made its local debut at the summit. Ithaca Is Home aims to market Ithaca, and the surrounding areas, as a great place to live, work, and play. Using local membership information, the Chamber brought together all the necessary information that someone interested in moving to the area might need. Looking for a house or a job? The Ithaca Is Home website can help you find both.

Looking to the future, some of the issues brought up at the summit are issues that have plagued the area for years: transportation, housing, and building a strong, local workforce. Both Heather McDaniel, President of TCAD, and Jennifer Tavares, President of the chamber, gave presentations at the summit giving a snapshot of the local economy, highlighting recent projects and accomplishment. Keynote speaker Gary Keith, Vice President and regional economist for M&T Bank, presented on national trends and outlook, and a discussion of the local economy’s performance over the previous year.


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