Tioga County, New York prides itself on being a beautiful and business-oriented place to settle. This lush haven combines the perks of an idyllic rural lifestyle with robust infrastructure and a dynamic workforce.
Shovel-ready building sites, abundant water sources, full utilities, and the support of Tioga County’s economic development and planning office await businesses that seek to establish, relocate to, or expand in a place that offers both quality of life and upward economic mobility.
Tucked into the verdant niche of the American northeast, Tioga County stretches across 523 square miles of fertile land. It is surrounded by the Pennsylvania counties of Bradford and Susquehanna to the south, and the New York counties of Broome to the east, Tompkins and Cortland to the north, and Chemung to the west. The Susquehanna River, the longest river on the American east coast, flows through the southern portion of the county, eventually emptying into the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. Tioga County is strategically located in the Northeast, and is within a five-hour drive of 25 percent of the United States population. It also has close access to major interstate systems, international airports, and elite educational institutions.
Tioga County was founded towards the end of the eighteenth century in 1791. Its county seat is in Owego, a lively village that is as vibrant as it is friendly. Owego has grown significantly over the last ten years. Here, modern and old exist side by side as the village has both carefully preserved historic buildings and brand new developments. Owego is proudly protected under the national government’s Preserve America heritage initiative, and its spirit of care is evident throughout the county.
Tioga County has a unique partnership between the Tioga County Department of Economic Development & Planning, Tioga County Local Development Corporation, and Tioga County Industrial Development Agency. This collaboration goes by the name of Tioga Economic Advancement Members or TEAM Tioga, and thanks to its cohesive approach to economic development, the area is seeing renewed interest in all it has to offer.
The organizations have combined forces with municipalities, privately-owned companies, entrepreneurs, and local government to stimulate growth and development in the area. Its extensive list of services support and provide incentives to both existing and new businesses to boost the county’s growth, and it is paying off in a big way.
TEAM Tioga has taken a comprehensive and holistic approach to its economic development strategy for Tioga County, centering on five key interrelated components; job creation, workforce development, housing, downtown revitalization and quality of life. “For us, each of these components is integral to the economic growth and sustainability of the county because it makes Tioga a good, prosperous place to live, work, and raise a family,” says Brittany Woodburn, economic development specialist. Of course, communities that play together stay together, and recreation also forms a big part of the county’s planning. The team’s approach considers the overall wellbeing and health of its greater communities.
A host of visionary development projects have given the county a strong economic injection, and job opportunities abound like never before. As part of the fresh influx of new business, the town of Nichols is now home to Crown Holdings Incorporated’s brand new 525,000-square-foot metal packaging manufacturing facility. This global firm has chosen to make Tioga County its new home thanks to the business-friendly environment and ample resources.
Upstate Shredding has also added a new state of the art heavy media plant, which will allow for zorba to be processed and sold domestically, increasing the area’s employment rate even further. Zorba is defined by the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) as a ‘shredded mixed non-ferrous metals consisting primarily of aluminum generated by eddy-current separator or other segregation techniques.’ Additionally, in 2017, Nichols also welcomed a new FedEx Freight service facility.
The Tioga Downs Casino Resort also recently contributed generously to the local employment landscape by expanding its offering to include a full gaming license and impressive additions that are drawing tens of thousands of people to this area annually. The sixty-two-unit Owego Gardens Senior Apartments for those over fifty-five has been another great income generator for the area. In total, these projects have created 490 new jobs for local people. Employment figures are the highest the county has witnessed for many years with unemployment at an impressive low. This growth commitment currently translates into a phenomenal 96 percent or 22,100 employed people in the county. The county’s steady growth has been a positive antidote to an earlier population decline that followed the 2008 recession and is expected to support upward population trends in years to come.
Tioga County’s existing workforce is well trained and highly skilled. In a bid to shape its future workforce, TEAM Tioga introduced the accelerated apprenticeship program in 2018. A similar program proved successful in Syracuse, New York, with twenty apprentices being hired into careers in advanced manufacturing. The program provides skills training and development over six weeks, and prepares participants for manufacturing roles such as computer numerical control (CNC) machinist, maintenance mechanic, or industrial manufacturing technician. During this time, learners are compensated at $13 per hour – equivalent to full-time wages.
Upon completion of the program, participants from Tioga County and the greater area are offered guaranteed manufacturing positions, and are able to continue in a four-year state apprenticeship program with remuneration increases based on merit. Complimentary tuition, books, and materials are also provided for during the program. Applied Technology Manufacturing Corporation, Crown, Cork & Seal, and Hardinge Inc. are a few of the participating employer partners who offered the direct hire manufacturing positions in the 2018 program.
The project was possible thanks to the efforts of contributing organizers, including Tioga County Career Center, Owego Apalachin Central School District, SUNY Broome, American Apprenticeship Initiative (AAI), Manufacturers Alliance of Central New York (MACNY), Workforce Development Institute (WDI), U.S. Department of Labor, New York State Department of Labor, Working Solutions, and Jobs for the Future. Plans are in place for 2019 to continue to expand and grow this program in both Tioga County and the Southern Tier region.
Tioga County’s school districts are also pioneering innovative programs to address workforce development needs in the county and across the region. The Owego Apalachin Central School District has created a state of the art STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and agriculture, and math) academy, which offers students education in fields such as robotics, aquaponics, and agricultural innovations.
Not too far away, the Waverly Central School District has launched a work-based learning program that gives students hands-on experience as well as the knowledge and skills they need to excel. Programs link learners with employers, and the aim is to encourage youngsters to remain and prosper in Tioga County. Both initiatives are made possible through the dedication of and collaboration between the county’s school districts, employers, business owners, and economic development agencies.
On-the-job and technical training opportunities are not all the county has to offer regarding education, either. It enjoys equal access to tertiary institutions in neighboring counties like Binghamton University, SUNY Broome, Elmira College, Cornell University, Ithaca College, Tompkins Cortland Community College, and SUNY Cortland. Credit and non-credit courses through SUNY Broome are also available to students in Tioga County.
Of course, a workforce needs good housing, and TEAM Tioga is on a mission to ensure that the county can supply in this demand. The Tioga County Property Development Corporation, a designated New York land bank is set to play a big role in the process. As quality housing for middle-income families, first-time homebuyers, and seniors is currently in relatively short supply, Tioga County, in partnership with the economic development and planning department, the industrial development agency, and Tioga Opportunities Inc. launched a county-wide housing study last year.
The study specifically looked at socioeconomic factors and other barriers to housing development to inform and kick-start its neighborhood revitalization plans. As a result, it will design and apply a sophisticated housing development plan in partnership with the Rural Economic Area Partnership LDC. A task force will be brought to life to gather information and create a detailed representation of current challenges across the housing landscape.
Then, a comprehensive community revitalization strategy will set out the project’s main aims and guidelines for a period of three years, and investment plans will be generated and implemented. The county’s innovative new approaches to planning include a pocket neighborhood overlay district in Owego which will consist of walkable, condensed, energy efficient, easy to maintain homes that are centrally located and designed to stimulate a sense of community.
TEAM Tioga has done an incredible amount of work to increase downtown revitalization through scores of valuable projects. “The Tioga County commercial façade improvement loan program and the free paint program are both available for commercial property owners in the downtown main street areas throughout the county to encourage exterior renovation projects. To date, twenty-three projects have been completed; $318,000 has been lent, and an additional $50,000 has been leveraged in private funds,” says Brittany.
Mind-blowing prizes do not come around often, especially not those that are worth millions of dollars. However, just because they are rare, that does not mean they are impossible, as the village of Owego in Tioga County in upstate New York can attest. On August 23rd of this year, this bustling hub was awarded New York State’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) prize of $10 million for the ‘Southern Tier’ region, which will allow major revitalization and development projects to be completed throughout the community.
TEAM Tioga has also initiated anchor projects to aid downtown revitalization. One of these is a $2.9 million infill Gateway construction project that will give downtown Owego eight new residential units, four retail units, and a new visitor’s center. The $800,000 Parkview Hotel project will also breathe new life into the village’s downtown area. The historic hotel will see its second and third floors converted into nine hotel rooms and five studio apartments, and the downtown will no doubt benefit from the building’s beautifully restored façade. A $1,188,000 revitalization of the historic former village hall and police station on Broad Street in Waverly will renovate existing commercial space, and create three new residential units in the downtown. These and many other revitalization projects contribute to the future success of the county.
The region is home to industries such as advanced manufacturing, which makes up around 14.2 percent of the county’s gross domestic product and includes lumber production; aerospace and defense contractors; animal feed production; advanced plastics and new polymer fabrication; food packaging and production; polyethylene tanks and cistern application manufacturing; machined component parts; metal packaging; and custom assemblies.
In addition, it has a healthy agricultural sector with an annual turnover of $36.7 million in sales. Tourism also contributes hugely to the local economy with Tioga Downs Casino Resort, Finger Lakes region, and Waverly Glen State Park all being prized destinations for residents, tourists and visitors alike. Other significant contributors to the county’s welfare are its healthcare, education and retail sectors, which all provide their share of employment and contribute significantly to local prosperity.
With the quality one-on-one support offered by TEAM Tioga, setting up or moving a business to Tioga County is a breeze, and so is the lifestyle. Low-cost living, little crime, and high performing schools in walkable villages all contribute to its natural splendor and happy atmosphere. Locals have access to a myriad of outdoor recreational activities, theatres, farmers’ markets, community events, festivals, shopping, a good choice of restaurants, and so much more. This all makes Tioga County the perfect place for those who want to experience the joys of modern rural living.
With every service under the sun, there simply is no reason not to consider this a destination for relocation.