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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara

"Raising a glass to success"

ALBANY, May 12 -- Late last week in New York City, a few of our very own were among the
nearly three dozen New York State spirits producers pouring their handcrafted beverages at a prestigious event called the Manhattan Cocktail Classic.

The event was described this way by the president of the New York State Distillers Guild: “New York State distillers have the opportunity to display their innovation and quality right alongside big brands who have dominated the market for years. The Manhattan Cocktail Classic Gala is an incredible opportunity for New York State distillers, allowing us to reach new consumers and grow all of our businesses.”

That’s the critical goal: reach new consumers and grow all of our businesses.

For the second consecutive year, Finger Lakes Distilling (, a farm distillery located in Schuyler County, represented our region in this big-city event (they were joined this year by Myer Farm Distillers from Ovid, Seneca County). What a great honor – and opportunity – to showcase the excellence of their handmade spirits. It remains a true testament to the quality of their craft, as well as their commitment to locally grown fruits and grains.

Of course we continue to be proud that they carried the banner for our region at such a top-flight gathering of cocktail enthusiasts. It reinforces the proud reputation of the Finger Lakes as a cornerstone of New York’s agriculture, tourism and hospitality industries. And it serves up another opportunity to celebrate the widespread success of the wine, beer, spirits and cider industries across the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions, and statewide.

It’s become big business, and it continues to anchor so many tourism-related attractions and economic opportunities.

Of course the story we know so well is the story of our grape and wine industry, one of the greatest of all New York success stories and one, in large part, led by the Finger Lakes vineyards and wineries that have served as the hub of this national and international emergence over the past two decades. In its latest economic study, the state Wine and Grape Foundation pegged the economic impact of grapes, grape juice and wine in New York State at $4.8 billion.

But beer’s been on the table, too. New York's craft brewing industry, for example, is burgeoning. The number of craft brewers has more than doubled over the past decade. It now consists of upwards of 100 breweries accounting for thousands of jobs and generating more than $200 million of annual economic activity in nearly every region of the state, including right here at home (see the Finger Lakes Beer Trail at The Finger Lakes Beer Trail currently showcases craft brewers at 83 locations, including 51 breweries and 21 brew pubs. In 2010, according to the Brewers Association, craft brewing in the United States grew by 12% in sales to $7.6 billion.

Some of you might recall a new state law enacted in 2012 that implemented regulatory reforms and tax incentives to encourage the expansion of our craft beer industry. The law focused on how to keep this single industry growing and to do it in ways that enhance and strengthen the foundations of agriculture and tourism at the same time. That’s the key idea.

As noted above, more than a half dozen distilling operations dot the Finger Lakes region today (read more at It’s an agricultural sector that’s growing along with the steady development of a local hard cider industry. Both show the potential for great success and would offer yet another market for many farmers. In the state of Washington, for example, the number of hard cider producers has quintupled over the past several years.

In early April, the state held a second “Beer, Wine, Spirits and Cider Summit,” which subsequently produced additional legislative and regulatory reform actions to further encourage economic growth. It marked the latest chapter in New York government taking a more active, collaborative, nuts-and-bolts partnership role in the pursuit of a stronger economy and job creation. For more information, visit

In short, it’s all about government acting as the gateway to a better business climate. In this specific case, it’s about continuing to try to find ways to utilize the growth of one specific industry in ways that benefit other leading New York industries like agriculture and tourism through the creativity, diversity and innovation that’s going to be required for long-term sustainability and success.

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara

Schuyler County Officials

Legislature Members:

Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Jim Howell, Michael Lausell, Van Harp

Bottom row: Tom Gifford, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field.


Legislature Chairman

Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687

Legislature Members:

Thomas M. Gifford, 535-9517

Van Harp

Jim Howell

Barbara Halpin, 594-3683

Michael Lausell

Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen, 481-0482

Stewart Field, Watkins Glen, 535-2335

County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133

Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222

Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222

County Treasurer: Gary Whyman, 535-8181

District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383


State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County

Sen. Charles E. Schumer

United States Senate
313 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-3201
DC Phone: 202-224-6542
DC Fax: 202-228-3027
Email Address:

Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand

United States Senate
478 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
DC Phone: 202-224-4451

State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)

Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Phone: (518) 455-2091
Fax: (518) 426-6976

Assemblyman Phil Palmesano-- Steuben, Schuyler, Yates
Room 723, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248
Phone: (518) 455-5791


© The Odessa File 2011
Charles Haeffner
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869