The sunrises over a snowy Ithaca campus.

Partnership seeks international businesses for Southern Tier

A collaboration between the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, Binghamton University and the Center for International Business Advancement has secured a $1.6 million federal grant to establish a regional hub designed to attract foreign startups and growing companies to the Southern Tier region.

The cross-university, multi-year program, “Soft Landing on New York’s Southern Tier,” is funded by the Economic Development Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. The hub will provide a range of assistance aimed at making it easier to establish operations in the region and support successful integration into the Southern Tier regional economy.

The program will emphasize recruiting international startups and corporate enterprises from the clean energy sector.

“At Cornell, we jumped at this unique opportunity for collaboration,” said Andrew Karolyi, Cornell’s principal investigator on the grant and the Charles Field Knight Dean of SC Johnson. “It’s a strategic fit with our college’s engaged-learning initiative and focus on entrepreneurship.

“It’s also an opportunity for our business students, alongside Binghamton peers from the Watson College of Engineering and Applied Science, to engage, in real time, with foreign startups and scaleup companies attracted to our region, working firsthand with coaches and mentors from industry and our distinguished Cornell faculty,” Karolyi said.

Cornell’s participation in the Soft Landing on New York’s Southern Tier Program will be managed out of SC Johnson’s Office of External Relations and Engagement.

"At the core of this program is an exceptional partnership between two premier academic institutions in the region – Binghamton University and Cornell University,” said Elena Iankova, founding director of the Center for International Business Advancement, and the program’s operational lead at Binghamton.

“Both universities have strong commitment to community-engaged learning, and the Soft Landing Program brings complementary value by directly immersing students in global networks and clean energy endeavors,” Iankova said, “nurturing skills for operating successfully in a world that is becoming more and more interdependent, as climate change and the COVID pandemic clearly demonstrate.”

To help participating companies consider how best to grow their ventures from a Southern Tier base, student teams will be partnered with Soft Landing participating companies to assist with market research and business plans.

Housed in the Center for International Business Advancement at Binghamton, the larger program expects also to provide a variety of services to the incoming foreign companies, such as immigration and visa assistance, legal and government compliance advising, networking with potential investors, and cultural and translation services.

“We believe the Soft Landing Program will have an important positive impact on the region’s economy and its status as a thriving hub of startups and innovation,” said Tom Schryver, executive director of Cornell’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement (CREA), one of 16 partners expressing engagement support for the proposal.

“We are excited about the great potential of the project,” said Schryver, also the David J. BenDaniel Faculty Advisor for the BR Ventures Fund.

The Binghamton-Cornell Soft Landing Program award was announced by Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), who said the program is estimated to create 365 jobs and generate $2.7 million in private investment.

“This funding will help to attract new employers, create good-paying jobs and jumpstart the region’s economic development as we continue to recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Schumer said. “Now, many more will see what I’ve long known: that the Southern Tier and broader Upstate New York region are on the rise.”

Mary Lorson is academic content editor and Ann Rollo is executive director of communications for the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business.



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