photo courtesy of fingerlakeswinecountry.com
According to Empire State Development, tourism is now New York’s third-largest employer – attracting nearly 245 million visitors annually and producing an economic impact of nearly $110 billion.
In other words, tourism is big business. Throughout the Finger Lakes and Southern Tier regions, according to industry analysts, it accounts for upwards of 60,000 jobs.
For those of us born and raised locally – or for anyone who has lived here for any extended period of time – tourism equates to so much more than dollars and cents. The industry, in all of its many sectors, largely defines our culture. It is woven into the fabric of our lives, as well as being the foundation of so many locally based traditions.
We are wise, then, to take every opportunity to celebrate it and showcase it — which is what we did last week at the state capital. Assemblyman Phil Palmesano and I, along with legislative colleagues, hosted the New York Wine Industry Association’s (NYWIA) 6th Annual “Sip and Sample” tasting event. This event has steadily grown into one of the State Legislature’s top efforts to show off New York State-made wines, cheeses, and other food products. This year the tasting featured wineries, cheesemakers, and other food manufacturers from the Finger Lakes, Hudson Valley, Long Island, the Capital Region, and Central New York.
NYWIA’s new president, Erica Paolicelli, Co-owner of Three Brothers Wineries & Estates in the Finger Lakes, said, “Our association advocates for stability and advancement of the wine industry in New York through advocacy. The ‘Sip and Sample’ event is an amazing opportunity for our members to showcase their products.”
We are proud to help support these winemakers, cheese producers, and other food manufacturers by promoting the excellence of their products. For example, I have said repeatedly over the years that New York’s grape and wine industry is one of our greatest-of-all success stories. From the brink of disaster a generation ago, the industry today is renowned statewide, nationally, and internationally. In fact, the New York Wine & Grape Foundation estimates the state’s grape, grape juice, and wine industries annually generate more than $13 billion in overall economic benefits to New York.
If you’re familiar with the industry, then you appreciate how much has gone into the industry’s transformation, at so many levels, including the level of advocacy, public awareness, and education – areas where NYWIA (nywineindustryassociation.com), the Wine & Grape Foundation (newyorkwines.org) and others have made and continue to make such a difference.
Of course, the rise of the wine industry has helped sparked the ongoing emergence of the Finger Lakes Cheese Alliance (flxcheese.com) and a statewide cheese industry that can boast of being the fourth largest in America. In fact, one of the region’s signature events is the annual Finger Lakes Cheese Festival at Sunset View Creamery in Odessa (Schuyler County), which takes place this year on Saturday, July 27. Find out more at flxcheese.com.
In addition, never overlook the steady work of organizations like the Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance (fingerlakes.org), proudly celebrating its 100th anniversary this year and marking a century of encouraging the industry to keep working together towards common goals that strengthen all.
Therefore, yes, it is more than worthwhile to help show off the quality of these outstanding New York State products. These industries are economic engines for a great number of rural, upstate communities. They provide good, sustainable livelihoods for thousands of New Yorkers.
Most importantly, their growth and success remain a story in the making.