Five more learning moments

In my August 12 post about the 2016 Finger Lakes Study Tour, the first five of ten learning moments were outlined. Here are the other five:

Three Brothers sign post

Three Brothers Winery has several destinations on one property

  1. Multiple Revenue Streams: Several stops showcased the many ways multiple revenue sources were maximized. Three Brothers Winery tapped into merchandise, featuring lots of clothing, trinkets and souvenirs. Arts Centre of Yates County rents out a lakeside property to artists and their students. Shtayburne Farm built a cheese factory and shop so the next generation could move back home to the farm. The Make Your Own Glass experience at the Corning Museum of Glass generates $1.5 million in revenue annually. (This is actually Rule #3 in the very good book, Small Town Rules, by Barry J. Moltz & Becky McCray.)
  2. Tax Incentives: Yates County’s Payment In Lieu Of Taxes (PILOT) program offers an average of 68% property tax abatement over 14 years on a business capital investment or job enabling project for commercial, industrial, manufacturing and service oriented firms. For retail and destination tourism firms, the average percentage is 60% over 10 years.
  3. Regional Support, Local Direction, Big Dollars: Numerous times during the trip we were reminded that New York State has a healthy regional economic development grant system in place. Not only do the grants often benefit private-sector projects, but they are large in size and utilize direction from local and regional stakeholders. That said, local communities didn’t wait for the white knight to charge in on his horse. For example, the group was surprised at how much emphasis the Gaffer District of Corning puts on making its storefronts and windows look good. That level of dedication takes financial commitment.
  4. Tolerance for Risk and Failure: The incubator program at The Tech Farm highlighted how risky it is for an entrepreneur to develop a product for the food industry.  Investors and supporters of such new businesses must be patient and tolerant. There is a high probability of failure in this sector, which seems to be tolerated more often here.
  5. Paradigm Shift: From an Ontario perspective, many ideas and ventures along the route were perceived to be “colouring outside the lines” or “bending the rules”. The fact is that New York legislation appears to enable innovation to take place. Examples include the Farm Distillery Act, which lets farmers like the Myer Family start a small-batch distillery and tasting room.

The goal of the study tour was to learn from people at similar businesses in communities similar to those in Norfolk County and other parts of Ontario. A report prepared by Norfolk County staff, based on a survey of those who attended the tour, summarizes the learning moments that participants experienced in the Finger Lakes. The report has detailed information about each stop along the way, including key observations and learning moments.

5 learning moments on the Finger Lakes Study Tour

In the Finger Lakes Study Tour Report, you can read all ten learning moments. To keep this read short, let’s concentrate on the first five. The next five are listed in my August 25 post.

FLX Group shot

This friendly group of Canadians spent two days together learning about businesses and communities in Upstate NY in April 2016

Here are just a few of the ideas and concepts the group from Norfolk County and Ontario’s Southwest learned during the Finger Lakes Study Tour in April 2016:

  1. Enabling Neighbourhood projects: The city of Geneva operates a “center for neighbourhood initiatives” that encourages and supports projects and volunteers that revitalize all parts of the city. Musical porch parties and concerts in the cemetery engage residents and get them communicating and working together.
  2. Upselling second-floor apartments: Chris Wright in Penn Yan upgraded his second-floor apartment in the downtown core and listed it as overnight tourist accommodation on Air BnB. He’s now earning $300 a night for an apartment that used to take in $500 a month.
  3. Story-telling for Business: Telling your story is the most important thing you can do when you are operating a business whose target market is consumers. Ports of New York in Ithaca is a small business but offers a powerful, memorable experience because the owner narrates his family’s story so well.
  4. Social Enterprise: Social enterprises can address community needs by raising money from tourists and consumers. Milly’s Pantry in Penn Yan and the GreenStar Coop in Ithaca are great examples of non-profit organizations that rely on income from one stream of business to subsidize the costs of a social need in the community.
  5. Collaboration and Community Mindfulness: Collaboration is everything – there is no “them”, there is only “us”. It was clear in most communities – Corning being a good model – that work got done when people rowed in the same direction, especially if a major corporate sponsor is on board. There was acknowledgment that all players in the community have a role. When everyone respects one another, a lot gets accomplished. As one participant put it: “I love that every place we went was community minded.” This kind of collaboration enabled the ‘Race for Space’ program in Geneva, where entrepreneurs competed for a discounted downtown storefront lease.

The goal of the study tour was to learn from people at similar businesses in communities similar to those in Norfolk County and other parts of Ontario. A report prepared by Norfolk County staff, based on a survey of those who attended the tour, summarizes the learning moments that participants experienced in the Finger Lakes. The report has detailed information about each stop along the way, including key observations and learning moments.

 

Another insightful Finger Lakes tour

“Back by popular demand…”

It’s such a cliché, but in the case of the Finger Lakes Study Tour, it is so true.

Finger Lakes_96

It was my pleasure and honour to guide the tour, both years, with our driver Harvey (right). He got us there and back safely – even through freezing rain and grumpy border guards. Photo: Tracy Haskett

With help from Southwest Ontario Tourism and Norfolk County, I had the great pleasure and honour to guide 40+ business and community leaders through the Finger Lakes in March 2015. It was a great success. The tour concept won the award for Cross Border Cooperation and Regionalism from the Economic Developer’s Council of Ontario.

Participants enjoyed it and learned so much – they asked me to organize another tour. So, Finger Lakes Study Tour II happened in April 2016.

So, again this year, I wrote up a summary report about what we learned, based on a survey of participants. Over the course of a few blog posts, I’ll break the report down into manageable chunks.

Or – feel free to download the entire report at norfolkbusiness.ca.

In my next post, I’ll tell you about the 10 “learning moments” we experienced: enabling neighbourhood projects, upselling second-floor apartments, story-telling for business, social enterprise, and so on.

You can also read about last year’s Finger Lakes tour starting at Finger Lakes 2015 – Post #1

But first, special thanks to the many people who made the Finger Lakes Study Tour in April 2016 a success:

  • Andrew Tompkins, Finger Lakes Boating Museum
  • Brandon Kane and Joe Romano, GreenStar Cooperative Market
  • Chef Richard Larman
  • Chris Iversen, Birkett Landing
  • Chris Wright, Penn Yan
  • Christine Peacock and staff, Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel
  • Coleen Fabrizi, Corning’s Gaffer District
  • Debra Loehnert and staff, Three Birds Restaurant
  • Frédéric Bouché, Ports of New York
  • Harvey the Driver, Attridge Transportation Inc.
  • Jeremy Coffey and staff, Hermann Wiemer Vineyards
  • Joanne Wolnik and Jen Moore, Southwest Ontario Tourism Corp.
  • Joe Myer, Myer Farm Distillers
  • John Johnson, The Technology Farm
  • Karen Taft, Amanda Vinson and staff, New York State Wine & Culinary Centre
  • Katharine Korona and staff, Three Brothers Winery
  • Kris Pearson and Sandy Murrin, Arts Centre Yates County
  • Lauren Lowman and staff, Coltivare
  • Lorin Hostetler, Shtayburne Farm
  • Patrick Gaffney and John Jensen, Greater Hammondsport Chamber of Commerce
  • Phyllisa DeSarno, JoAnn Cornish and Annie Sherman, City of Ithaca
  • Sage Gerling, City of Geneva
  • Steve Griffin, Finger Lakes Economic Development Center
  • Suzan Richards, Susan Wolff, George and Carolyn Schaeffer, Milly’s Pantry
  • Trevor Davis and staff, Rooster Fish Brewery
  • Zach and Laura Cutlip, Winewagen Tours
  • Plus … Gail Bouw, Fritz Enzlin, Tracy Haskett for their photos in the report

 

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Rural Canadians learn from U.S. region: Part 14

We had completed our tour of the Finger Lakes. The two-day, one-night trip by rural small business owners from Norfolk County, Canada, was organized by Norfolk County Tourism & Economic Development and sponsored by Ontario’s Southwest Tourism.

Ryan at The Combine

Ryan Rivard of The Combine describes the appetizers he has served the group / Photo: Melissa Collver

During our last meal together, the chef/owner of The Combine in Norfolk County, Ryan Rivard, invited the group to reconvene at his restaurant in two weeks time, to debrief and share experiences.

In the meantime, comments were gathered from the participants on the trip, who generally found value in the Finger Lakes Study Tour.

“Well organized, good itinerary, amazing inclusions! Only by working together will we be able to redevelop our area,” said one participant

“Good for local businesses and Norfolk staff to be able to experience the up and downs of economic development in small towns in the Finger Lakes area,” said another. “With such a wide selection of places to visit there was something for everyone to learn. Thank You! I have a lot of good usable info that can be incorporated in our business.”

“I learned that everyone every now and again runs into adversity. Every village, town, city or establishment has obstacles. I plan on helping to meet the challenges we have face on, to keep thinking of ways to improve.”

Menu

Participants in the Finger Lakes Study Tour reconvened at The Combine Restaurant two weeks after the trip to share ideas. Thanks Ryan for inviting us! / Photo: Melissa Collver

Asked if any bright ideas were discovered during the tour, one participant commented: “Not one particular idea, but lots of food for thought. My wheels are still turning, I have researched some of the places we visited. I haven’t stopped talking about it.”

Two weeks later, most of the group gathered at The Combine. Chef Ryan served a mind-blowing combination of dishes, including Norfolk County ingredients such as YU Ranch beef, Round Plains sweet potatoes and Pristine Gourmet oils. The food was complemented by pairings of local wine from Burning Kiln and Bonnieheath, hard cider from Villa Nova Estate Winery, and “Sweet Leaf” craft beer from the Blue Elephant Craft Brewhouse. Ryan also incorporated butternut squash seed oil from the Finger Lakes into the aioli in his Perch Tacos.

Many ideas and experiences were shared. The group also received copies of the Finger Lakes Study Tour Report, which can be downloaded at norfolkbusiness.ca/news/finger-lakes-report/.

Thanks again to Southwest Ontario Tourism Corp., and Norfolk County Tourism & Economic Development, all the hosts and all the participants, for making this initiative a great success.

See photos of the trip on the Invest in Norfolk facebook page.

Bonnie Preece & Ron Barr

Bonnie Preece & Ron Barr

Our friends from Rushcreek Winery, who joined the tour, wrote two excellent blog posts about their experiences. Check them out at:

Finger Lakes Study Tour blog posts

  • Part 1: Wine & Culinary Centre | Technology Farm
  • Part 2: Winewagen Tours
  • Part 3: Weaverview Farms | Milly’s Pantry
  • Part 4: Yates County Arts Centre | Finger Lakes Ec Dev
  • Part 5: Climbing Bines Hop Yard & Brewery
  • Part 6: Wiemer Vineyards | Glenora Cellars
  • Part 7: Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel | Ice Bar
  • Part 8: Finger Lakes Distilling
  • Part 9: Cornell Lab of Ornithology | Ithaca Commons
  • Part 10: Americana Vineyards
  • Part 11: Seneca County Army Depot
  • Part 12: Seneca Falls
  • Part 13: Warfields Restaurant
  • Part 14: Debriefing at The Combine

(c) 2015 Clark Hoskin

Rural Canadians learn from U.S. region: Part 13

Warfields for dinner

Our group dined at Warfields as our tour drew to a close / Photo: Clark Hoskin

Staying on the theme of supporting rural and small businesses, the final leg of our trip took us west via Highway 5/20 to the town of Clifton Springs. Instead of eating our dinner at a service centre food court on the Interstate, our last stop of the tour was Warfields, a restaurant and bakery.

The tour of the Finger Lakes by rural small business owners from Norfolk County, Canada, was organized by Norfolk County Tourism & Economic Development and sponsored by Ontario’s Southwest Tourism.

We were greeted by Jamie Noga of the Clifton Springs Chamber of Commerce, who thanked the group for supporting this small town, with its history of sulphur springs with curative powers. In fact, the town’s hospital is located next to the historic Clifton Springs Sanitorium Company, built in 1850 to provide primary and specialty care to the people of the Finger Lakes.

“I found it very interesting to hear that other towns have had similar problems with revitalizing what should be the hub of the community. It was good to know that it could be done with the right organizations all working together to build and promote the cores in their counties.” – comment from one of our participants

The group enjoyed an excellent meal coordinated by Warfields’ Banquet Manager, Diane Fabiaszak, and prepared by Chef Phil Yautzy. Four dinner options were provided for our group to choose from, and many guests purchased pastries and cookies at the bakery after dinner.

Finger Lakes sign

Finger Lakes sign / Photo: Clark Hoskin

Our group bade farewell to the Finger Lakes and headed back to Canada. The bus arrived at the Norfolk County Fairgrounds after 11 p.m. on March 4.

Read Part 14 to find out what happened after the tour!

See photos of the trip on the Invest in Norfolk facebook page.

Finger Lakes Study Tour blog posts

  • Part 1: Wine & Culinary Centre | Technology Farm
  • Part 2: Winewagen Tours
  • Part 3: Weaverview Farms | Milly’s Pantry
  • Part 4: Yates County Arts Centre | Finger Lakes Ec Dev
  • Part 5: Climbing Bines Hop Yard & Brewery
  • Part 6: Wiemer Vineyards | Glenora Cellars
  • Part 7: Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel | Ice Bar
  • Part 8: Finger Lakes Distilling
  • Part 9: Cornell Lab of Ornithology | Ithaca Commons
  • Part 10: Americana Vineyards
  • Part 11: Seneca County Army Depot
  • Part 12: Seneca Falls
  • Part 13: Warfields Restaurant
  • Part 14: Debriefing at The Combine

(c) 2015 Clark Hoskin

Rural Canadians learn from U.S. region: Part 12

Seneca Falls was our next stop. This small town is working hard from many angles to revitalize its local economy and tourist attractions.

The tour of the Finger Lakes by rural small business owners from Norfolk County, Canada, was organized by Norfolk County Tourism & Economic Development and sponsored by Ontario’s Southwest Tourism.

Bronze statues

Bronze statues in the Women’s Rights National Historic Park / Photo: Clark Hoskin

In 1848, Seneca Falls hosted the first women’s rights convention in the U.S., a historical event. Today, this history is celebrated at the Women’s Rights National Historic Park. Our bus arrived here, and Kimberly Szewczyk of the Park and Jeff Shipley and Mackenzie Green of the Seneca County Chamber of Commerce greeted us.

After a tour around the building, we headed to the Seneca Museum of Waterways and Industry. The curator, Chris Podzuweit, explained that the town no longer has falls, because they were flooded to make way for an expansion of the Erie Canal in 1918. A boater on Long Point Bay in Lake Erie can sail to Seneca Falls, via the canal, and then onto the Atlantic Ocean.

Seneca Falls has developed its waterfront through landscaping and improving canal tie-up facilities, offering a “free wall” – free water, electrical service and showers to boaters. Extended stays in Seneca Falls are encouraged with the installation of a boardwalk and lighting. Almost 200 years old, the Erie Canal remains important to the town’s economy.

Don Earle, Town Supervisor for Seneca Falls, also greeted us. He explained the Town’s recent amalgamation with the village resulted in savings for taxpayers.

It's A Wonderful Life Festival

It’s A Wonderful Life Festival, 2009 – Lineup for autograph of actress who played Zsuzsu in the movie / Photo: Clark Hoskin

Seneca Falls holds the annual It’s A Wonderful Life Festival in December, celebrating the town’s curious connections to the classic holiday film. While planning the film in 1944, director Frank Capra got a haircut here on his way to visit his aunt. The town of “Bedford Falls” in the film is said to have been inspired by Capra’s stop here. The winter festival now includes the It’s A Wonderful Run 5K, a successful fundraiser. Last year, over 3,100 people completed the race. Some in our group visited the WomanMade Products store in downtown Seneca Falls, a retail shop with a T-shirt factory in the back. The store features lots of clothing celebrating the Finger Lakes, women’s rights, and It’s A Wonderful Life.

Every August, Seneca Falls hosts Empire Farm Days, an annual agricultural exhibition that began as a potato farmers’ event in 1931. Hosted on a 300-acre farm south of town, the event is the largest outdoor agricultural trade show in the Northeastern U.S.

These were just a few of the stops along the way on the Norfolk County Finger Lakes Study Tour. Watch this blog for more chapters in the story. See photos of the trip on the Invest in Norfolk facebook page.

(c) Clark Hoskin 2015

Finger Lakes Study Tour blog posts

  • Part 1: Wine & Culinary Centre | Technology Farm
  • Part 2: Winewagen Tours
  • Part 3: Weaverview Farms | Milly’s Pantry
  • Part 4: Yates County Arts Centre | Finger Lakes Ec Dev
  • Part 5: Climbing Bines Hop Yard & Brewery
  • Part 6: Wiemer Vineyards | Glenora Cellars
  • Part 7: Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel | Ice Bar
  • Part 8: Finger Lakes Distilling
  • Part 9: Cornell Lab of Ornithology | Ithaca Commons
  • Part 10: Americana Vineyards
  • Part 11: Seneca County Army Depot
  • Part 12: Seneca Falls
  • Part 13: Warfields Restaurant
  • Part 14: Debriefing at The Combine

Rural Canadians learn from U.S. region: Part 11

After lunch on Day 2, we crossed the ridge of land between Cayuga Lake and Seneca Lake, passed the towns of Ovid and Romulus, and drove up to the guardhouse in a remote corner of the Seneca County Army Depot, formerly operated by the U.S. military.

The tour of the Finger Lakes by rural small business owners from Norfolk County, Canada, was organized by Norfolk County Tourism & Economic Development and sponsored by Ontario’s Southwest Tourism.

Army Depot Plan

Seneca County Army Depot plan / Source: Seneca County IDA

“Welcome to the Cold War,” said Bob Aronson, stepping onto our bus. From the 1940s through the 1990s, this site was one of the largest stockpiles of nuclear weapons on American soil. Bob heads the Seneca County Industrial Development Agency (IDA). The primary role of his team is to find new tenants and uses for the property, which is about the size of Manhattan Island. This task includes repurposing 519 “igloos” that were used to store munitions. One company uses an old army barracks to manufacture materials used in the oil and gas industry.

Nature has reclaimed a lot of the 10,000-acre property, home to a population of unique white deer. Their colour is a result of inbreeding caused by being fenced in for many years.

“The planning that goes into economic development was eye opening to me. So many different aspects, so many people affected, weighing the pros and cons and coming up with a solution to keep everyone relatively happy must be a huge challenge.” – comment from participant

Seneca County Army Depot

Entrance to the Seneca County Army Depot / Photo: Clark Hoskin

Bob had good news to share. In December, the State of New York announced that Seneca County has been awarded one of four “non-Indian” casino licenses. The Lago Resort & Casino will be built in the community of Tyre. The $425-million resort will have 2,000 slot machines, 207 hotel rooms, a 10,000-square-foot spa and a 40,000-square-foot pool area. More than 1,250 jobs could be created. Site plan approval has been granted and environmental approvals are in place. Seneca County IDA granted incentives to the developer of the casino, including property tax abatement and local sales tax exemptions. We thanked Bob for his insights, and dropped him off at the guardhouse.

This was just one of the stops along the way on the Norfolk County Finger Lakes Study Tour. Watch this blog for more chapters in the story. See photos of the trip on the Invest in Norfolk facebook page.

(c) Clark Hoskin 2015

Finger Lakes Study Tour blog posts

  • Part 1: Wine & Culinary Centre | Technology Farm
  • Part 2: Winewagen Tours
  • Part 3: Weaverview Farms | Milly’s Pantry
  • Part 4: Yates County Arts Centre | Finger Lakes Ec Dev
  • Part 5: Climbing Bines Hop Yard & Brewery
  • Part 6: Wiemer Vineyards | Glenora Cellars
  • Part 7: Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel | Ice Bar
  • Part 8: Finger Lakes Distilling
  • Part 9: Cornell Lab of Ornithology | Ithaca Commons
  • Part 10: Americana Vineyards
  • Part 11: Seneca County Army Depot
  • Part 12: Seneca Falls
  • Part 13: Warfields Restaurant
  • Part 14: Debriefing at The Combine