UTICA–The brewing and hops industries have helped define the legacy of the Erie Canal and the Mohawk Valley. How they can again serve as an economic catalyst in the region and revitalize communities will be discussed at a forum in Utica on Oct. 30.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo first paved the way for that resurgence in 2012, when he signed a farm brewery law that provides a refundable tax credit to small brewers, eliminated burdensome tax filing requirements and created a farm brewery license that, among other things, increased the ability for breweries to offer tastings and open restaurants.
Last year, Governor Cuomo signed into law a comprehensive reform of the Alcohol Beverage Control Law, which eased or eliminated archaic regulatory requirements that had hampered the growth of breweries and other producers of alcoholic beverages. There are now 375 breweries in New York, compared to just 50 in 2011, before Governor Cuomo took office.
Howard Zemsky, President, CEO and Commissioner of Empire State Development, the State’s chief economic development agency, is slated to deliver the forum’s keynote address. Under the direction of Governor Cuomo, ESD vigorously supports craft brewing through a grant program that has committed nearly $5 million to more than 70 projects statewide. It also provides breweries with a single point of government contact for help with regulations, licensing and state incentives.
Commissioner Zemsky said, “Thanks to strategic investments and the repeal of outdated regulations under Governor Cuomo, the craft beverage business is booming across New York State. We are proud of the Mohawk Valley’s craft brewers and their partners, who are spurring job creation, bolstering tourism and generating local economic growth.”
The forum, to be held from 2:00-4:30 p.m. on Oct. 30 in Schafer Theatre at Mohawk Valley Community College, is sponsored by the New York State Canal Corporation, the Department of State, the State University of New York and Taste NY. It is the second in a series of statewide discussions tied to the bicentennial of the building of the Erie Canal, which began in Rome on July 4, 1817.
“It’s fitting that we have this discussion in the Mohawk Valley, as this is where it all began for the Erie Canal,” said Brian U. Stratton, Canal Corporation director. “Brewing and hops production have long been an indelible part of this region and policies championed by Governor Cuomo have enabled it to be an engine for economic growth.”
The New York State Brewers Association estimates craft breweries—those producing 60 million or fewer gallons of beer annually–are responsible for a $4 billion annual economic impact.
RoAnn Destito, commissioner of the New York State Office of General Services, will extend a welcome at the forum on behalf of Governor Cuomo.
Commissioner Destito said, “As a lifelong resident of the Mohawk Valley, I am very excited to see the continued resurgence of my region’s rich brewing history and would like to thank Governor Cuomo for his commitment to this industry. From Oneida Brewing in the early canal days, to Utica Club, Saranac and all the new microbreweries popping up each day, it is clear that hops and barley will continue to play an important role in our economy.”
State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “This forum builds on Governor Cuomo’s accomplishments through his industry summits to revitalize craft beverage manufacturing in New York and support economic growth across the state. Any time we can bring communities together to talk about the importance of the industry and its potential, it is beneficial for our producers and our farmers who supply them with high-quality ingredients.”
Secretary of State Rossana Rosado said: “Since 2011, Governor Cuomo has made significant investments in upstate New York, through programs such as the locally driven Regional Economic Development Councils. This investment has spurred a dramatic resurgence in our historic canal communities. As I’ve traveled around the state with the REDCs, I’ve heard story after story about the tremendous impact that craft breweries can have on community vibrancy. This forum drills deeper into that exciting dynamic.”
The presidents of three SUNY colleges, Mohawk Valley Community College, Herkimer College and Morrisville State, will also be part of the forum. Their schools offer courses in hospitality and food science and technology.
Morrisville State has a growing brewing science program that includes the just-opened Copper Turret restaurant and brewpub. It serves as the laboratory facility for the school’s Brewing Institute, which gives students hands-on experience in growing practices and processing raw ingredients to produce high-quality beers.
The Mohawk Valley and Central New York were historical hubs for beer making in New York. Utica alone had at least 40 breweries. The region was also home to many hop farms, which harvested as many as 60 million tons annually after the Erie Canal opened and made it economical to ship crops long distances. Prohibition killed off most of that production. However, over the last two decades, the craft-brewing movement emerged in the region along with a steady growth in hops production.
“New York is one of the fastest-growing craft beer states in the country. We currently rank fourth in total number of breweries and economic impact,” said Paul Leone, president and CEO of the New York State Brewers Association. “This kind of growth would not be possible without the continued support of Governor Cuomo and his administration, which has given breweries many incentives to not only prosper, but to also continue to grow.”
To register for the forum, go to canalevents [at] canals [dot] ny [dot] gov
The Canal Corporation runs the New York State Canal System, which includes the Erie, Champlain, Oswego and Cayuga-Seneca canals. Spanning 524 miles, the waterway links the Hudson River with the Great Lakes, the Finger Lakes and Lake Champlain. In 2017, the Canal Corporation celebrated the 200th anniversary of the groundbreaking for the Erie Canal, which occurred in the city of Rome on July 4, 1817. The Canal System includes the Erie Canalway Trail, a multi-use trail designed to accommodate pedestrians, bicyclists, and cross-country skiers. Together, the canals and trail create a world-class recreationway that is a vibrant, scenic and unique New York resource.
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