Above photo: Leadership Cayuga Class of 2016 and alumni. Leadership Cayuga is a program of the Cayuga County Chamber of Commerce, a partner organization with Cayuga Economic Development Agency.

by  Ginny Kent
Education and Resource Coordinator, Cayuga County Chamber of Commerce

Leadership Cayuga just wrapped up another program year. One of the class requirements is to tackle projects that have the ability to impact and improve our communities in some way. Project ideas of local interest are submitted by community leaders, and the Leadership Advisory Council selects those for the class to pursue.

Engaging Youth in Cayuga County

This team was charged with creating an efficient way to connect families with opportunities for youth during summer and school breaks. Taking the challenge to the next level, they looked at demographic data and then determined if there were sufficient fundamental programs available for youth in the first place. They explored what other counties were doing to meet the needs of their children, and reviewed the impact of some of the top programs. No Kid Hungry, an initiative of a Washington, D.C.-based foundation to eliminate childhood hunger, shows promising results in addressing these problems. The results include increased graduation rates, better physical and mental health, and more. The project team’s recommendations included finding funding and support for a similar program in our county for at-risk populations, establishing partnerships between school districts and community-based organizations, and diversifying and streamlining program opportunities for all youth. Their final recommendation is a web-based platform and for the work to continue through interested agencies.

Game of Drones

In 2015, plans for a Global Center for Unmanned Aerial Systems (translation: drones) and Cross-Connected Platforms was announced as a key initiative in CNY’s Regional Economic Development Plan that secured $500 million in funding to stimulate economic growth over the next five years.

Some technology, like the internet, computers and cellphones started out slowly due to accessibility and cost. Today, drone technology is already accessible to all, and can be purchased for under $50.

The project team was assigned with the task of exploring the world of drones that exists now, and anticipate its future. Drone use challenges our privacy as it soars over our swimming pools and campsites. It challenges law with its ability to hover over the walls of correctional facilities, dropping drugs or contraband. Drones can be equipped with armed weapons, and are a safety risk to aircraft, transformers and live wires, and wildlife.

There’s another side to drones. They can be equipped to detect heat and motion, and be deployed as part of a search-and-rescue operation when every minute is critical. They can travel over terrain and in weather conditions that would be extremely difficult otherwise. In military fields, drones can allow for presence in areas of great risk without putting personnel in harm’s way. Drone videography is a new opportunity to capture sports, nature or ceremonial events.

The use of drones, as a hobby, or in manufacturing, delivery services, entertainment, the arts, law enforcement, and the military is growing. By the year 2020, the drone industry is expected to reach $5.5 billion. This will generate jobs and sales tax, and introduce innovative ways to conduct businesses and strengthen our military. But at what cost to a community and its citizens? The Game of Drones team compiled information on drones that may be helpful to the local municipalities and agencies that will be addressing drone technology in the near future.

My Cayuga

Cayuga County has over 200 nonprofit agencies. Most of them address a community need and provide services to the elderly, disabled or the homeless. They protect the environment, give us opportunities to enjoy the arts, or enhance education. They also include religious organizations and foundations. Each agency has a board of directors and most of them depend heavily on a volunteer force to achieve their mission. Recruiting new board members and volunteers is an ongoing struggle for these agencies. The My Cayuga team researched and recommended ways to address this problem and provide a structure that will meet the needs of both the potential volunteers looking for opportunities and agencies seeking volunteers.

Capital for Community Action

The Cayuga/Seneca Community Action Agency worked with this team to identify a way to create additional revenue for their agency. The team looked at its existing Weatherization Program that is currently underutilized, even though it is available to all community members regardless of income. The team recommended that C/SCAA increase public awareness of this program through branding, advertising and social media, including its own website.

The agency also explored the possibility of opening a storefront thrift shop business in a highly visible and accessible area in or near downtown Auburn. The concept was modeled after a successful business in Albion. Finders Keepers would be a thrift store that uses paid and volunteer staff. Workers would learn customer service, computer and phone skills, and receive professional attire to wear during work hours until they’re able to afford their own.

For further information about these projects and other work by Leadership Cayuga, visit the Cayuga County Chamber of Commerce at 2 State St. Past project work has resulted in informed decisions about establishing a county tourism office, changing the leadership structure of county government with the addition of a county administrator, developing Market Street Park and many other changes that have affected our lives.

Applications are now being accepted for the next Leadership Cayuga class, beginning in September. What challenges will the new teams tackle?

Originally published in Economic Development column in The Citizen.