Last week, a tour bus with 50 business people from Norfolk County, Ontario, Canada, braved the snow and wind to visit the Finger Lakes to see how they might bring some of the innovations and business practices of our community to their own. Led by Clark Hoskin, Manager of Tourism & Economic Development for Norfolk County, and accompanied by Norfolk County Mayor Charlie Luke, the group of mostly small business owners visited Milly’s Pantry, the Arts Center of Yates County, Climbing Bines Craft Brewing Co., and the Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard. They also visited places in Geneva, Canandaigua, Watkins Glen, and Seneca Falls, including the N.Y. State Wine & Culinary Center, Finger Lakes Distilling, and stayed overnight at the Harbor Hotel.

With new businesses starting up and more than 300 business owners waiting to hear their reports, the delegation wanted to see what new angles and approaches Finger Lakes businesses have taken to earn the notoriety the region has received in recent years.

Hoskin has visited the area about 10 times in the past eight years, first attracted to Seneca Falls for its connection to Frank Capra’s film, It’s a Wonderful Life. Since then he and his wife have become fans of the entire area. On a previous Valentine’s Day visit, they joined the e-mail list at Milly’s Pantry and the Arts Center from which they heard all the news and recovery efforts from the flood of 2014. “We were really struck by the work Milly’s Pantry was doing to feed children, and when the flood hit, we really bonded with Penn Yan,” says Hoskin.

Despite the snow, Hoskin says everyone truly enjoyed themselves. “The first thing people said was how pretty Penn Yan is. They anticipated it would be a lot like Norfolk County, but they were thrilled. We came away really inspired and stimulated, getting new ideas and feeling a lot of optimism. Many have already said they will definitely be coming back,” he said.

Steve Griffin, CEO of the Finger Lakes Economic Development Center, helped Hoskin arrange the tour and accompanied the group during their time in Yates County. “The hosts were wonderful,” says Hoskin. “I wish we could do a lot of the things Steve is able to get done, like the economic incentives for new business.

“Many of our people have already said they will be coming back to visit Penn Yan, and all of you are welcome to Norfolk County any time,” says Hoskin.

Norfolk County’s most popular tourist attractions are the beaches, ports, towns and villages along Lake Erie, known as Ontario’s South Coast, including Port Dover, Long Point, and Port Rowan. There are also four wineries and a distillery, and a microbrewery is in development. Information on fishing, birding, hiking, camping and cycling as well as places to stay and eat, can be found in the Ontario’s South Coast Experience Guide, available by contacting Norfolk County through http://www.norfolktourism.ca.