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College Plays Role in Helping Cortland Win $10 Million Grant

Governor Cuomo with Tompkins Cortland people at grant announcement
L to R: Mayor Tobin, President Montague, Chris Xaver, Christine Shanks, Governor Cuomo, Crystal Lyon, Chad Diamond Dann, Anthony Smith, Martha Hubbard
Photo by Nealy Dann

October 6, 2017

A $10 million grant is coming to the City of Cortland from the New York State Downtown Revitalization Initiative, and Tompkins Cortland Community College played a big role in producing the winning application.

The award was announced by Governor Andrew Cuomo during a visit to Cortland October 6. Cortland will receive $10 million in funding as the Central New York winner of the second round of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative. One municipality from each of the state's 10 regional economic development regions was selected as a winner of $10 million in funding to help communities identify catalytic downtown projects to boost the local economy.

The City of Cortland had applied for the funding during the first round of grants in 2016, but wasn’t chosen. For the second round, city officials wanted to make sure their application gave the decision makers the chance to ‘see’ their story. For help in bringing the application to life, Cortland Mayor Brian Tobin reached out to Tompkins Cortland Community College.

“Reputation is everything, and I was very familiar with the work of both the faculty and students at TC3. When it was time for a visual element for this grant, it made sense to reach out to those I knew would deliver exactly what we needed,” said Tobin. “Tompkins Cortland is a great partner to the City of Cortland and we are grateful for their assistance in this project.”

“A big part of our role as a community college is to serve the community, and that’s not just in our classrooms. Being part of the team that delivered the winning grant is both thrilling and satisfying,” said Montague, noting this project is further proof of the quality of the College’s faculty and the work they do. “I’m so proud of everyone involved with this project - our students, alumni, and faculty. They responded and produced on a tight deadline, putting what we teach to work in a way that helps the greater community. I couldn’t be happier.”

The College’s involvement began in the spring, when the Mayor’s group reached out to then President Carl Haynes and Director of Strategic Corporate and Community Partnerships Martha Hubbard. Assistant Professor Christine Shanks, chair of the Graphic Design program, and Professor Chris Xaver, chair of the Communication and Media Arts program, were quickly brought in and wasted no time moving the project forward. Operating under a very tight timeline, Shanks and Xaver worked with students and alumni to complete the project, creating the video “Building Up Cortland” and helping put Cortland’s grant application over the top.

Tompkins Cortland Digital Cinema graduate Chad Diamond Dann (’16) shot and edited the video with assistance from student Rose Pinnisi. “Chad is a fantastic videographer and did an amazing job of finding local residents and telling their story,” said Xaver, noting video storytelling is compelling a viewer to ‘feel’ what the writer is trying to convey noting. “They love living and working in Cortland and Chad’s video work allowed that story to shine.”

“It was awesome to be invited to work on this project and to show the community what I learned while at TC3,” Diamond Dann, “I met many people while shooting the video and saw first-hand how excited people were when they found out Cortland was applying for the grant. People love this community and genuinely want it to succeed. I do too, and I think that love showed in our final product.”

Shanks and student Anthony Smith headed the still photography portion of the project with the assistance of alum Crystal Lyon (’05). Shanks said the best part of working on the project was the teamwork. “Working collaboratively with students, colleagues, and community members was a fantastic experience,” said Shanks, noting the project had her looking at the city in new ways. “Using our cameras to explore and highlight the charm and value that Cortland has to offer opened up exciting opportunities to meet new people and understand what makes downtown Cortland unique. It also provided us with an insider’s view of how strong and connected the community is. It was a gratifying and rewarding volunteer project to be involved with.”

Alum Jeff Lower (’13) was involved in providing aerial drone footage while student Casey Georgi assisted Xaver in creating the script. Xaver narrated the video with alum and current faculty member Lonnie Park (’14) proving the musical score.

The entire project was group effort from the start, and every person involved played a role in making it a successful project. “What most people don’t understand when they look at a video or a print document is what the art or image says to them. It’s subtle, but it speaks,” said Xaver. “The image may convey an unintended consequence. We wanted to make sure our images conveyed the heart we saw in this community. The spirit of entrepreneurs who care about their downtown and who are ready, willing, and able to attract more business into their community. We believe the images we captured conveyed that message.”

Governor Cuomo with Tompkins Cortland people at grant announcement
Members of the Cortland County Business Development Corporation, including President Montague, with Governor Cuomo.
Photo by Anthony Smith (

Governor Cuomo at grant announcement
Governor Cuomo at Cortland grant announcement.