Lt. Governor visits Watkins Glen
WATKINS GLEN--Local political and business leaders joined New York Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul Wednesday, Aug. 12 at the Watkins Glen International Jack Daniel's Club to discuss the local economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The tenor of the meeting was positive, with Hochul telling those assembled that Schuyler County will have an excellent tourism season next summer.
"It will be a part of (the Schuyler County) legacy that we came back better than ever," said Hochul.
Joining Hochul was County Administrator Tim O'Hearn, Watkins Glen Mayor Luke Leszyk, representatives from Watkins International, Corning Museum of Glass, Seneca Wine Trail and more.
"This is important because it shows that the state hasn't forgotten about us, that they are invested in our recovery," said Leszyk prior to the meeting.
During the meeting, O'Hearn shared Hochul's outlook for next summer, saying he expects the recovery from the pandemic to be robust.
In the short term, businesses are adjusting to the COVID restrictions by focusing more on interacting and engaging with individual customers instead of focusing on large numbers said Judy McKinney Cherry, executive director of the Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development.
Brittany Gibson, executive director of the Seneca Lake Wine Trail agreed with the assessment and said winery owners have increased sales per individual customer to help, in part, compensate for the reduction in the number of people that can visit.
"We have been making up for a dismal spring," said Michael Hardy, Watkins Glen Chamber of Commerce Executive Director.
Despite being relatively new to the job, Hardy said he has already heard from local lodging businesses that the summer months picked up more than expected following a spring that was drastically changed by pandemic health regulations.
After the meeting, WGI President Michael Printup said the racetrack remains a company priority despite this year's NASCAR race being moved to Daytona Speedway, and next year's season will include 10 events instead of nine. While not saying exactly what the additional event would be, Printup did say it is not Formula 1.
Fred Bonn, director of the Finger Lakes Park Region was also in attendance and said while numbers have been down during the pandemic, visitors have still been visiting regional parks from as "far as seven hours away."
Already booking campsites for 2021, Bonn added the response has been so strong he anticipates 2021 to be a banner year for park visitation.
Beth Duane, chief marketing and communications director for the Corning Museum of Glass mentioned the pandemic has affected overall visitation but said the museum has been adapting as a result.
"Because of the glass we have, we have an incredibly sophisticated ventilation system that makes the air quality for the museum just a step below that of a surgical room," Duane said.
Duane added she never thought she would be advertising the glass museum has leading air quality.
Hochul remarked adapting to the pandemic is important and air quality is a concern many people have right now when visiting attractions indoors.
Following the meeting, Hochul said the visit to Watkins Glen was part of trips she was taking around the state to meet with local business and political leaders to discuss the recovery from the pandemic.
When asked if the state planned to increase tourism advertisements to help regions like Schuyler, Hochul responded the state was facing billions of dollars in shortfalls as a result of the pandemic, and as such increased funding for tourism marketing was unlikely.
After the visit to WGI, Hochul toured Captain Bill's in Watkins Glen to check out the newly constructed building that was partially financed with money made available from the state-funded Downtown Revitalization Initiative.