Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced construction progress on the North Country Welcome Center near the Thousand Islands Bridge in Collins Landing, Jefferson County. The state-of-the-art Welcome Center, shown in new renderings, advances the Governor's commitment to growing local and regional economies by showcasing local attractions, historic sites, and New York-made food and craft beverages. The Welcome Center is on track to open this fall.
"The North Country is home to some of the most beautiful natural attractions New York has to offer and this welcome center is perfectly situated to highlight that," Governor Cuomo said. "From the Thousand Islands to the St. Lawrence River, this welcome center will encourage visitors to venture off the highways and experience these one-of-a-kind attractions."
Building upon the success of welcome centers across the state, the North Country Welcome Center will include regionally-specific elements linked to the history and natural beauty of the St. Lawrence River, as well as the history of the area, which includes such attractions as Boldt Castle on Heart Island in Alexandria Bay and the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton.
To date, underground plumbing and power have been installed, rough site grading is finished, and the foundation is nearly complete. Approximately 100 construction jobs are related to the project and all contractors working on the Welcome Center are New York State firms.
The Welcome Center will include a Taste NY Market showcasing locally grown and sourced products from across the North Country. Multiple interactive I LOVE NEW YORK kiosks will positioned throughout the Welcome Center, allowing visitors to design a trip itinerary and test their knowledge of the region. A large LED screen will promote regional tourism attractions and destinations. A boat from the Antique Boat Museum will pay tribute to the region's boating heritage, and an artifact wall will include regionally-specific items. Outside, a large I LOVE NEW YORK sculpture will provide the perfect setting for group photos and selfies, and the Walk of Fame will recognize famous New Yorkers from the region. A playground will give kids the opportunity to run and explore.
Funding for regional welcome centers was included in the FY 2018 State budget.
Office of General Services Commissioner RoAnn Destito said, "The North Country offers one of New York State's most unique destinations and OGS is thrilled to be engaged in the construction of this beautiful Welcome Center. Governor Cuomo has made tourism a key focus and this building will be a highly-visible gateway for visitors to learn all about attractions and events in the region."
Empire State Development President, CEO & Commissioner Howard Zemsky said, "The North Country Welcome Center will greet domestic and international visitors to the picturesque Thousand Islands region, further supporting our historic tourism gains. This new facility will engage travelers and encourage them to enjoy the food, beverages and attractions throughout the region."
State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, "It's exciting to see the North Country Welcome Center taking shape. Across the State, these centers are helping to spotlight New York's unique regions, including its farms and agri-tourism businesses that are growing and producing farm-fresh, local products for our communities. The North Country has an incredible agricultural industry, anchored by its dairy farmers, and we look forward to promoting their products in the North Country Welcome Center Taste NY Market."
Senator Patty Ritchie said, "From outdoor recreation and sightseeing to our tremendous locally made agricultural products, this new Thousand Islands Welcome Center will be the perfect place to showcase all our region has to offer. Introducing visitors—especially our Canadian neighbors—to these opportunities boosts our vitally important tourism and agriculture industries, which in turn, grows our entire economy. I look forward to seeing just how much this new welcome center will highlight the very best of Northern New York."
Assemblywoman Addie Jenne said, "I was thrilled when Gov. Cuomo announced plans for the welcome center at the entrance to the Thousand Islands Region from Canada and am delighted to see construction is already underway. The North Country provides ample recreational and tourism opportunities, and the welcome center will be an ideal addition to our local tourism marketing efforts. Our friends and neighbors to the north are an integral part of our region's economy."
Jefferson County Legislative Chairman Scott Gray said, "Jefferson County and the North Country are grateful to Governor Cuomo and New York State for assistance to bring a welcome center to the region. Our economy thrives on welcoming tourist to the North Country and all the attractions our region has to offer. The welcome center will be an excellent gateway."
In 2016, Governor Cuomo announced the grand opening of the Long Island Welcome Center in Dix Hills, Suffolk County. Since then, other Welcome Centers have opened in New York City, the Finger Lakes, the Mohawk Valley, the Southern Tier and Central NY.
The Governor's unprecedented investments in tourism have also generated record-breaking spending and visitation statewide, including 239 million visitors who spent nearly $65 billion in New York State in 2016. Tourism remains the state's fourth-largest employer, supporting more than 935,000 jobs annually and, in 2016, the total economic impact of tourism exceeded $100 billion for the third straight year.