SCHUMER ANNOUNCES HE WILL CONVENE ORANGE COUNTY TOURISM SUMMIT TO ENSURE LOCAL BUSINESSES GET THE MOST OUT OF NEW SULLIVAN CASINO – SCHUMER JOINS WITH HUDSON VALLEY TOURISM, HVEDC & VOWS TO BRING FED ENTITIES TO TABLE TO DEVELOP COMPREHENSIVE STRATEGY
Tourism in Hudson Valley, Orange County Set To Rise As A Result of New Casino in Sullivan – Important to Take Full Advantage of What Could Be Major Boon For Local Restaurants, Hotels, Shops & Other Tourist Attractions
Schumer, In Conjunction With Hudson Valley Tourism & HVEDC, Will Bring Fed Tourism & Economic Development Experts to Orange County, Convene Meeting With Local Officials & Businesses To Develop Strategy – Fed Agencies Offer Expertise & Funding Opportunities To Get Plan Off The Ground
Schumer: Orange County Needs A Comprehensive Approach To Take Advantage of Tremendous Tourism Potential
Today, at the Orange County Chamber of Commerce Luncheon at Villa Venezia in Middletown, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced his plans to convene an Orange County tourism summit to ensure that local businesses are able to capitalize on the potential economic impact of the new casino coming to Sullivan County. Schumer said that with more visitors set to pass through Orange as a result of the new casino, it is important for the county and its businesses to develop a comprehensive strategy to ensure they are benefiting from the eventual tourism uptick. Schumer said that restaurants, hotels, local shops and other tourist attractions are most likely to benefit, and he will be working with Hudson Valley Tourism & Hudson Valley Economic Development Corporation to bring county officials, business leaders and federal agencies together to develop a comprehensive strategy. Schumer said that federal agencies offer expertise and funding that can help make the plan a success.
A copy of Senator Schumer’s speech, as prepared for delivery, appears below:
Good afternoon, it’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you, to everyone at the Orange County Chamber and especially your President, Lynn Cione.
It’s great to be back here in the Hudson Valley with our leading businessmen and women – and the small businesses who employ the vast majority of workers across Orange County
Businesses large and small thrive in Orange County and across the state because of outside-the-box thinking, something we have in spades here in New York, and especially in the Hudson Valley, historically a central hub for business and trade.
The Hudson Valley first served as a major trading post for Dutch and European trade. And Orange County was (and is) in a particularly strategic trading position: it is the only county in New York that borders both the Hudson and Delaware Rivers. The roots of creativity, ingenuity, and entrepreneurialism can be traced to that period in New York’s history.
That history continues thanks to the hard work of all you in this room.
So today I want to talk to you about some of the positive momentum in the Orange County economy, how we can build on it, capitalize on it, and what I can do in Washington and in your region to help.
I last time spoke to this group in 2010, we were just beginning to recover from the financial crisis, and we were intent on tackling the stubbornly-high unemployment numbers. We’ve emerged from some tough times. It’s true. A lot of that is thanks to the work you do day-in and day-out.
We’re making headway with jobs and economic development in the Hudson Valley, and we can now safely say that the economy is starting to turn the corner:
- This past year, I helped secure a nearly $3 million EDA grant to help expand Hudson Valley Lighting in Newburgh, retaining 140 jobs and creating 60 new ones. The grant allowed the City of Newburgh to make critical sewer and water infrastructure upgrades to a brownfields site that will become the new HQ for Hudson Valley Lighting. It will be a $16 million research and manufacturing facility, one of the biggest projects undertaken in the City of Newburgh in years.
- As you know, safe communities are essential to economic growth and in that regard I was proud to help bring federal funding for new police officers in the City of Newburgh to protect our residential and business communities.
- And a little over a year ago, I was proud to work with the state to develop an incentive package to keep Mediacom in Orange and grow their presence. We were able to get them their own town classification to keep the 300 jobs they have in Blooming Grove and add 50 more as they expanded their facility.
- Woodbury Commons is undergoing a big renovation, expected to create 400 permanent jobs and 500 construction jobs. Already, it contributes $1.3 billion in local sales annually. So I’ve been pushing for some traffic upgrades along Route 32 to facilitate even more development, and prepare the area for the new Woodbury Commons in 2016.
- In Newburgh, the Marketplace shopping center is finally poised to reconstitute itself as “The Loop” across from the Newburgh Mall, bringing 50 new stores, 10 restaurants and a movie theater.
We’ve got a ways to go, but we are surely making progress.
But it doesn’t mean all our problems are behind us, or that our work is complete. But it is a reason to feel better about the direction the county is heading. Our job now is to build on what we’ve done, figure out how to best capitalize on these advantages, and nurture the green shoots that have already sprouted in our economy.
And in many ways, the areas of focus are the same as they’ve always been. When I first campaigned for Senate, I visited towns all over New York State talking about the need to lower electric and airfare costs – because those were two major constraints on economic growth at the time.
Today the issues are different, the means are different, but the goals are the same: foster economic growth, higher wages, and job creation from the town of Newburgh to New Windsor, Tuxedo to Middletown and everywhere in between.
These are the issues that really matter; and if we make progress on these issues, if we do well, we will have robust small business growth and dynamic, growing townships throughout the Hudson Valley.
So the big question is: what can we do now, in Congress, to build on the positive momentum in our economy and make sure our businesses are primed to grow?
Today I’d like to focus on one of the areas I’m most optimistic about getting a big, bipartisan compromise, something that will impact NY, and all of your businesses greatly – INFRASTRUCTURE.
In the past I have tried to look at the WRDA bill for water/sewer and the highway bill for roads and bridges, but over time it is clear to me that neither of these sources is nearly adequate to meet the need. I scrap for every last dollar for New York, but there’s no doubt that New York, and our country, is desperately in need of a major infusion of funding to address our crumbling infrastructure. That’s why I feel so strongly that this year we need to push – and push hard – for a big infrastructure bill.
Let me tell you why I think we can get it done this year and what it will mean for Orange County.
The truth is, we used to agree on the vital need to invest in our infrastructure. We used to agree that our highways, and bridges, and roads and sewer systems serve as the backbone of our economy.
A consensus is beginning to emerge on the broad outlines of what an infrastructure package could look like this Congress. Democrats and Republicans are talking about using the revenue we could earn from tax reform to fund a robust infrastructure bill – a bill that would fix the Highway Trust Fund and lock-in funding for many of the programs you know well (TAP, TIGER, etc.)
Just imagine if we had a real, robust infrastructure package and what that could mean for the Hudson Valley and Orange County:
- …it could mean expanding Rt. 17 to accommodate the tourism boom sure to follow the development of the casino in Sullivan county. Expanding Rt. 17 is an idea I have pushed for years and it is one of the main projects I have in the back of my mind as I fight for more infrastructure spending.
- …it could mean traffic upgrades for Route 32 around Woodbury Commons, as I mentioned earlier;
- …it could mean more support for federal roads in the region, like I-84, I-87 (NYS Thruway), and portions of the new I-86 (the NY Route 17 changeover);
- …it could mean finally renovating Stewart Airport, which is a hub of local jobs and economic activity. The state and Port Authority have recognized the need to reinvigorate Stewart, and we in the federal government can push that forward with a robust infrastructure bill;
- …we could also revive the dream of a rail link to Stewart, and a one-seat ride from Orange and Rockland Counties to New York City, JFK, and LaGuardia.
Let me say it again: One of the big things we can accomplish this session is an infrastructure bill. Traditionally, infrastructure has not been a Democrat or Republican issue. I believe we can come together on it and do something big.
As I mentioned, I believe tax reform will be an essential piece of any infrastructure bill. But let me address some principles I have as it relates to tax reform.
I appreciate Chairman Hatch’s efforts to jumpstart the tax reform discussion and I think this is a real opportunity for us to work together.
In the international space, which I am co-chairing with Sen. Rob Portman, there is a chance for consensus; I think many of us agree we should try to lower the corporate rate, but not at the expense of existing expenditures in the Code that work. We shouldn’t gut our depreciation schedules or get rid of important credits and deductions that promote business activity.
If we can keep laser-focused on international reform, capital investment and infrastructure, we can get a targeted deal. If we broaden the discussion and try to take on individual rates and expenditures, I think it falls apart.
Each of these items would further business growth in Orange. Together, they would have an even greater effect. But there are also things we could do locally to churn the gears of our economy even faster.
Let’s consider Orange County specifically, which has a lot of natural, economic advantages:
- It’s the second-fastest-growing county in the state in terms of population;
- It has proximity to NYC;
- It has a highly-skilled workforce;
· A high quality of life;
· And a host of scenic locations with resplendent natural beauty.
And it has a world-class airport, rail infrastructure and excellent interstate highway access to points north, south east and west.
Oh, and then there is its unrivaled natural beauty – the Hudson Highlands, the Hudson River, West Point, Storm King Mountain. I could go on and on.
Considering these qualities altogether, it is no surprise that in the Hudson Valley, and especially Orange County, one of our greatest opportunities to grow and support our local business community is TOURISM.
The Hudson valley has a long history of attracting visitors from both near and far, and this rich history has helped our economy grow, and it continues to be a spark plug for future business, cultural, and economic development.
Tourism is New York’s second largest industry, and fifteen percent of that economic activity and job creation is happening in Orange County - over $460 million and 9,000 jobs. As a state, the tourism industry has steadily grown by about 2% each year.
Working together, we can make that growth happen quicker, more efficiently and more robust – creating jobs in Orange County and all of the Hudson Valley.
We have all heard about the sheer number of visitors to places like West Point, and Woodbury Common.
Woodbury Commons brings in over 13 million visitors per year and West Point brings in over 3 million – but are we doing everything we can to bring those visitors to our other world-class destinations throughout Orange? What can we do to ensure the tens of millions of tourists visiting the new casino in Sullivan are enjoying everything we have to offer in Orange County as they pass through?
With new tourism destinations on the horizon, including a world class gaming destination coming to neighboring Sullivan County, we need to come together and chart a path forward to increase awareness, improve access and marketing, and enhance the tourism experience for visitors from all around the world.
The new casino alone is projected to attract over 2.2 million new tourists to the region. Now we need a plan to ensure our surrounding attractions, our hotels, our restaurants and our mom-and-pop shops are benefiting from this influx of new business opportunities
That is why today, I am announcing that I will be convening an Orange County tourism summit in partnership with Hudson Valley Tourism, HVEDC and all of our public-private partners. As part of this summit, I will be inviting key federal agencies who can play a role in supporting and enhancing tourism opportunities throughout Orange County
In the weeks ahead, my office will be working with Hudson Valley Tourism and HVEDC to convene this summit to discuss how we can entice these expected new visitors to become a permanent fixture in Orange County’s tourism economy.
What, practically, will such a summit achieve? First and foremost, binging together local leaders and representatives from the state and federal government will help put Orange County projects and priorities front-of-mind for federal grant programs and assistance. Let me give you a few examples:
- The federal Economic Development Agency (EDA) could fund economic impact and tourism studies…
- BrandUSA, a public-private entity established to globally market the United States as a premier travel destination, could work with local entities to market our attractions to folks across the globe…
- The National Park Service could be urged to improve the visitor experience at our parks and historical destinations…
- FHWA could look to Orange County to enhance our world-class walkways and trails…
- Working with USDA, we can increase our agri-tourism opportunities, create new revenue streams for our farmers and showcase to the world the amazing farming and agricultural destinations Orange County and the Hudson Valley has to offer – especially the fruit growers and dairy farmers
- Agri-tourism is rapidly expanding in – From the Black Dirt Region to U-Pick orchards to all of our incredible wineries, there is something for all tastes of visitors who come to Orange County.
- Think of the hard-working onion and vegetable farmers in the Black Dirt region, which are becoming the center of a burgeoning farm-to-table movement. Federal support for these farmers – especially for marketing and exporting – holds up an existing pillar of the Orange County economy, and simultaneous helps build another new pillar in agri-tourism
These are just a few examples of the many ways the federal government can actively assist in leveraging everything the Hudson Valley has to offer.
And when we convene, I am committed to pressing these federal agencies, and all of the local groups who participate, to bring significant new resources to support the endeavors identified by our local communities. Simply put, I will do everything in my power to get federal resources to enhance our growing tourism economy.
To conclude --- the Hudson Valley is one of the fastest growing, and most rapidly changing parts of the Empire State, and it is the people in this room help drive that change.
You create the jobs, you provide the economic opportunity, and you make our local towns and communities some of the best places to live in this country.
Our past is rich, but our future is even brighter. To realize that future, we have to keep investing in infrastructure, growing our tourism industry, nurturing and maintaining our strong tradition of food and beverage industries, and harnessing the full potential of the river that is this region’s namesake.
I have never felt better about the potential of the Lower Hudson Valley and Orange County than I do today.
My door is always open, and I stand ready and eager to help you create jobs and grow your business in every way that I can. Thank you.