Renovations to I-81 Rest Area in Broome County Include Larger Taste NY Facility and Refocus the Center on Southern Tier Tourism
Investment Complements "Southern Tier Soaring" - The Region's Comprehensive Strategy to Revitalize Communities and Grow the Economy
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that work is complete on a state-of-the-art Southern Tier Welcome Center rest area on Interstate 81 northbound in Kirkwood, Broome County, approximately two miles north of the Pennsylvania state line. Building on the success of the Long Island Welcome Center, which opened last fall, the revamped Southern Tier Welcome Center will encourage travelers to visit new tourism destinations across the state and region, and promotes New York's world class food and beverage products at an expanded Taste NY facility. The renovation project complements "Southern Tier Soaring," the region's multi-billion-dollar investment to support economic and community growth.
"The Southern Tier is a great New York gem and this new Welcome Center will help spur tourism in the region while supporting the state's vibrant food and beverage industry," Governor Cuomo said. "This center showcases this region's world class destinations, and I encourage visitors from near and far to discover the unique things to do and see in the Southern Tier."
"As the gateway to New York from Pennsylvania, this new Welcome Center will provide a service to travelers from as far south as Tennessee, heading north to destinations as far as Canada, and we want to make sure those travelers stop here and check out all that New York has to offer," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul during today's ribbon-cutting. "The Southern Tier Welcome Center presents the perfect opportunity to promote our state, tourism and most importantly - bring more jobs to the Southern Tier."
The Welcome Center, last renovated in 1995, is now a larger, more modern facility, complete with a new seating area for up to 60 people, electric car charging stations, a "canoe regatta"-themed play area for children, a motorcycle shelter, a Southern Tier Walk of Fame, video and selfie walls, a gallery of regional artifacts, a pet comfort area, and a life-sized I LOVE NEW YORK sculpture. The designs and exhibits, ranging from a race car in the entrance, provided by Watkins Glen International, a hanging glass sculpture on loan from the Corning Museum of Glass to the carousel-themed seating area, highlight the beauty and variety of Southern Tier attractions.
The new and improved Welcome Center, with 13,825 of square footage, is nearly 2,500 square feet larger than the previous facility. Enhancements to the new Welcome Center include an expanded Taste NY facility, which will provide a unique customer experience with its wide promotion of regional products. The previous Taste NY area had seating for just three to six people, while the new area features seating for 16 people.
Travelers will now be able to sample locally sourced food and beverage products from the region, such as the Southern Tier's famous Spiedies, paninis, seasonal soups and salads, as well as a variety of snack and grab-and-go options, such as dried fruits, jerky, chips, nuts, gluten-free baked goods, and locally-roasted specialty coffee drinks offered through state of the art micro-vending. The Taste NY area will feature scenic views of the Southern Tier.
A new kiosk area with five different interactive app features will allow travelers to explore everything the Southern Tier and New York State have to offer. Visitors can take a quiz to determine the types of attractions they would enjoy, and receive a custom itinerary via email. At another kiosk, travelers can map out a route from attraction to attraction, and test their knowledge of New York State trivia. A large television screen will show highlights of regional tourism sites and locations.
State Department of Transportation Acting Commissioner Cathy Calhoun said, "The renovated Southern Tier Welcome Center provides travelers with a safer, more convenient place to rest during their trips, and highlights the Southern Tier's strong tourism and agriculture industries. We are proud to help implement Governor Cuomo's vision for world class Welcome Centers in New York State."
State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, "The new expanded Taste NY facility at the Southern Tier Welcome Center promotes the very best of the State's food and beverages with travelers looking to explore and get a 'taste' of the region. By introducing visitors to an even bigger selection of unique local products, we're helping to promote our farmers and producers and encourage agri-tourism throughout the Southern Tier. I thank Governor Cuomo for his commitment to boosting New York's regional economies through these Welcome Centers."
Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Howard Zemsky said, "Under Governor Cuomo, New York State tourism has become a $100 billion industry, supporting local economies and job creation statewide. The Southern Tier Welcome Center will further those efforts by highlighting regional tourism assets throughout the area."
As part of the project, upgrades were made to the existing rest area building and grounds, as well as the plumbing, heating, ventilation, air conditioning and electrical systems.
Since taking office 2011, Governor Cuomo has made unprecedented investments in the tourism industry throughout New York State, leading to historic levels of visitors and direct spending. In 2016, New York welcomed a record 239 million visitors who spent nearly $65 billion, generating a total economic impact of more than $100 billion for the third straight year. Additionally, tourism remains the state's fourth largest employer, supporting more than 914,000 jobs annually.
Senator Fred Akshar said, "Today is proof that our community celebrates our rich history and still works together, regardless of political persuasion to be the Valley of Opportunity for individuals of every background, race, religion and creed. Everyone should know that this Gateway is more than a rest stop, it's a celebration of Southern Tier culture, of history and of the people who shaped our community into the place we love so dearly today."
Senator Tom O'Mara said, "The new Southern Tier Welcome Center is a modern facility deserving of our region's exciting natural and tourist attractions. We're grateful that it will showcase all that the Southern Tier has to offer to travelers from near and far."
Assemblymember Donna Lupardo said, "The Southern Tier Welcome Center is the first stop for hundreds of thousands of travelers entering New York. I am thrilled that they will be able to learn more about the exciting destinations in our own community and beyond, as well as get a taste of the terrific food and beverages produced in the region. I appreciate the Governor's continued commitment to growing New York's tourism, food, and beverage industries."
Broome County Executive Jason Garnar said, "For everyone coming up 81, Broome County is their introduction to New York State. We welcome the thousands of people driving to Broome County every day to stop and see what we have to offer."
Victoria Giarratano, Director, Cornell Cooperative Extension Broome County said, "The Welcome Center exposes travelers to local agricultural products and highlights our small businesses from the regions of New York State. The economic impact as a result of the Taste NY program has created business growth and sustainability to small businesses and local farmers."
Accelerating Southern Tier Soaring
Today's announcement complements "Southern Tier Soaring the region's comprehensive blueprint to generate robust economic growth and community development. The State has already invested more than $4.6 billion in the region since 2012 to lay for groundwork for the plan - attracting a talented workforce, growing business and driving innovation. Today, unemployment is down to the lowest levels since before the Great Recession; personal and corporate income taxes are down; and businesses are choosing places like Binghamton, Johnson City and Corning as a destination in which to grow and invest. Now, the region is accelerating Southern Tier Soaring with a $500 million State investment through the Upstate Revitalization Initiative, announced by Governor Cuomo in December 2015. The State's $500 million investment will incentivize private business to invest well over $2.5 billion - and the region's plan, as submitted, projects up to 10,200 new jobs. More information is available here.