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:
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.