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Local Economic Development Conference

We envision a community where everyone who wants work has the opportunity to work.

Economic Development, when people matter


The conference was a success!  But there is still much work to be done to improve our small business climate.  We are hoping to have follow up meetings to encourage local dialogue and action.


Bruce Seifer’s prepared remarks for the Saturday morning portion are embedded below, and linked here.


Civil Advocacy Project is a legal services nonprofit, operating in New York State to help low income entrepreneurs. As an attorney trying to help people lift themselves out of poverty, I found that some of my most passionate and dedicated clients faced a constellation of challenges that are beyond the scope of what I do.

My clients have trouble getting traditional loans. They don’t have a ready pool of investors. Family and friends with money to invest. They have trouble finding a little space to rent for their business as it grows. Or they get hamstrung by the logistics of life, the ‘soft’ infrastructure of life that holds up a community – access to education, child care, food, transportation.

After visiting our Vermont office, and seeing how many small businesses are thriving in nearby Burlington, I wanted to bring some of that magic back to upstate New York.

After a bit of research, I found that the magic that helped small businesses in Vermont was no accident. In the early 1980’s, a political contingent was elected that focused on a ‘grow what you have’ theory of economic development. Through errors and trials, and success, they purposefully designed and created structures to support small growth.

To my great pleasure, I found many in Ithaca who are already working on nurturing the businesses my clients start. This conference is co-sponsored by the Center for Transformative Action, by Local First Ithaca, and Tompkins Workforce Solutions. An organization called BALLE (be a localist), is one of several nationwide organizations working to help communities turn toward their already existing growth potential.

Borrowing from some of the existing BALLE guidance, we structured this conference to help our local economic development professionals, politicians, teachers and board members make the changes here to support the people and businesses here.

The conference will be in downtown Ithaca, September 28th and 29th.

If you would like to attend, please click on the button below to register. We offer a sliding scale so that individuals and those from smaller organizations can also attend. Coffee, snacks and lunches will be included. Please list any dietary restrictions when you register.


About our Speaker

Our guest speaker will be Bruce Seifer, the longest serving economic development public official in the state of Vermont. He began working for the City of Burlington’s Community and Economic Development Office (CEDO) at the office’s inception in 1983. He led the City of Burlington’s Economic Development efforts since 1985. During that time he pursued policies that brought Burlington into the strong economic position it currently has – an unemployment rate between 2-3% and an extremely low commercial vacancy rate.

Mr. Seifer has since published a book about building sustainable communities, and consults with cities, non-profits, and local economic development offices about how to learn from the lessons of Burlington.

An interview and podcast about his experience in Burlington can be found here, if you’d like more information.


Conference Schedule

 SEPTEMBER 28th, FRIDAY – Unitarian Church Annex

9 – 10:30 – Access to Capital –   How to build structures to supply funding, when and how businesses need it.

20 minute coffee & bathroom break

10:50 – 12:20 – Retail Space –  Access for the little and medium sized business

Time to Eat and Discuss – 1 hour (Lunch provided) 

1:30 – 3:00 – Building (soft) infrastructure – culture, childcare, food deserts, transit options

20 minute coffee & bathroom break

3:20 – 4:50 – Building (soft) infrastructure – Energy, Environment and efficiency

SEPTEMBER 29th, SATURDAY – First Presbyterian Church Basement

10- 11:30 – How can Non-profits, Business Coalitions and Individuals step in to change laws and regs

11:30 – lunch time (exact time TBD) – Q & A and discussion