Seneca wine group names new director
FINGER LAKES--It's been a very good year for Brittany Gibson. Currently tourism and marketing manager at the Watkins Glen Area Chamber of Commerce, she will leave there in mid-November to take up a new job as executive director of the Seneca Lake Wine Trail.
In a sense, that position will bring together much of her life, talents and work experience. "I am excited," she says. "It's also a little sad because I really, really enjoy what I do at the chamber. And I really love all the people I get to work with there. But it's not like I'm going far." Just a few blocks further north on Franklin Street.
Born in Dundee, Gibson grew up surrounded by vineyards. After college, she considered going to law school and worked for a while as a paralegal. To de-stress, she began working at Fulkerson Winery, where she began to re-examine her career path. When she was offered a promotion to advertising director and wine club manager, "I thought, let's see where this goes. And 13 years later, here I am! I've always had a passion for wine," she adds. Gibson and her husband have dabbled in home winemaking as well.
"One of my major strengths is time management and the ability to juggle things," she says. This may explain her taking all the other changes in stride. Seven weeks ago she gave birth to her first child, Hudson. Earlier this year she was elected to the Dundee school board, which she views as an opportunity to give back to the community that helped nurture her beginnings. "I'm definitely not the sort of person who can just do one thing," she explains. "I like to be involved. And it's helpful to me to have my hands in those pots across the board."
One secret to getting it all done, she says, is planning everything out--on paper. "People laugh at me because I'm so into technology and still carry a paper planner."
And because she's been involved in the wine industry in one form or another for her entire working life, the learning curve will be shorter. "I look forward to talking to wine trail members to get a feel for where they're at," she says. "And obviously what they've done has historically worked really, really well. I'm looking forward to continuing those things that have made them so successful."
Her work in the chamber underscored her sense of "what an incredible winery community we have in the Finger Lakes. I've forged a lot of solid relationships." And having made a point of supporting wine trail events over the years, she also has the dual perspective of having experienced the wine trail as a tourist. "I'm surprised there's a lot of locals who don't fully appreciate the incredible assets we have here. You can stand on line at a grocery store and hear people wondering why people would come here! But look at the wineries, all the area's assets and natural beauty--we're immersed in it all the time and we get kind of numb to it. But there are people from all over the world coming to visit the Finger Lakes."
Gibson explained, "And this is a very exciting time in general for everyone in the Finger Lakes. There's a lot of funding coming into the area, just a lot going on. A number of young professionals are coming back to the Finger Lakes because of the quality of life here. Some grew up here, moved away after school, lived in a more urban environment and realized there's more here. It doesn't surprise me there are so many new businesses opening--the area has a wealth of cottage industries and entrepreneurial personalities. My job has been to bring more visitors here. We as a tourism industry, leaders and marketers, need to broaden the audience so the small businesses survive."
Paul Thomas, the wine trail's former director, did a phenomenal job, she says. One project that began under his watch is something she looks forward to taking further, a web-based trip-builder to allow visitors to plan their itineraries in the area.
"I will definitely be out and about, not always be sitting behind my desk," she predicts. "People will definitely see me out and about on the trail." And she adds, "It's kind of like coming home."