Columbia County takes agriculture seriously. It is an important part of our heritage and a major source of employment. It utilizes almost half the land mass in the County. We raise everything from sheep to apples, and from that we create everything from award-winning yogurt and Camembert to Core Vodka, made from Hudson Valley apples.
Agribusiness has been identified as a priority in the regional economy and continues to experience economic growth in Columbia County. From 2002 to 2007, there was an 11% increase in the number of farms, bringing the number to 557. The market value of products sold had also increased during that timeframe by 26% to a total of $65,770,000. The diversification of the agricultural economy has proven fruitful to County producers.
In 2012, Columbia County became home to Hudson Valley Creamery, a cheese processing plant that intends to use goat milk from herds in the region as part of their ten year plan.
An outgrowth of the bounty produced in Columbia County is our burgeoning restaurant scene. Columbia County residents and visitors have no shortage of eating establishments from which to choose, and every year more restaurants choose to serve foods grown locally. Many of our outstanding chefs have been trained nearby at the world renowned Culinary Institute of America.
More traditional direct retail opportunities are plentiful in Columbia County. Community Supported Agriculture is a popular way to purchase food and support farmers. With a CSA, a farmer offers “shares” of produce to the public. The consumer benefits by getting the freshest produce available while becoming exposed to new foods and getting to know the farmer in the process.
If you don’t purchase a share, you can always visit one of the 47 farm markets or numerous “Pick your Own” farms conveniently located throughout Columbia County.
A strong creative sector makes for a cool place to live, for young and old alike. Columbia County has a lot of momentum in the coolness category. For one thing, we have a history of independent business ownership. Entrepreneurship isn’t just something we talk about; it’s our way of life. You’ll be happy to shop locally because our businesses are as unique as their owners. And talk about the arts: you don’t have to leave the County to see an opera at the Met. Just walk down to TSL and watch it live in HD.
The creative sector includes arts and culture, and just about every other facet of our local economy. Creativity and innovation can lead to entrepreneurship and job creation. It cuts across industries, including agriculture and the arts, manufacturing and education, high technology and entertainment. We have jewelry designers and manufacturers, graphic designers, artisans involved in every aspect of historic building restoration, web developers, guilders, fine art restorers, you name it.
And because we have such a diverse population, with a wide variety of interests and talents, we have this really cool convergence of tastes and values. There truly is something for everyone.
Columbia County is a part of Tech Valley, the region of Eastern New York stretching from the Canadian border to just north of New York City. A central focus of Tech Valley is the technology economy of the Capital Region. Like other successful technology centers around the country, New York’s Capital Region has a highly educated workforce employed by a cluster of technology companies with a capital city at its core. Unique to our regional economy is the advancement of nanotechnology as a model for employment and entrepreneurship. Biotechnology, clean and renewable energy, and advanced materials also play an important role, and a strong collaboration between government, business and academia has proven critical to these targeted industries.
Our participation in the Tech Valley economy has fostered innovation and entrepreneurship within our own borders. Some businesses are finding success developing sources of alternative energy. Some businesses have located in Columbia County to strategically position themselves in the midst of this industry cluster. Still others have found a niche in precision machining and medical research. All have been started or purchased by individuals who chose Columbia County as their home base for a variety of reasons, but in common they have found a market for their products and services in Tech Valley and beyond.
Tourism is a vital component of Columbia County’s economy. Identified as a County economic development initiative, the Columbia Economic Development Corporation is committed to supporting the growth of tourism related businesses. The economic impact of visitor spending totaled $97.9 million in 2009. Columbia County is increasingly dependent upon tourism in the Hudson Valley region, with 6.6% of all labor income generated by visitors and 7.8% of all employment sustained by visitors.
Some of the most visited sites in the nation are located in the Hudson Valley/Capital Regions, but it is Columbia County’s unique blend of history, culture and rural landscape that is responsible for the growth in our tourism industry.
Tourists are choosing more rural and out-of-the-way destinations, in part because of the cultural, historic, and natural resources such destinations offer. Many of the visitors who visit Columbia County do so for the lush landscape and breathtaking views of upstate New York, but are often surprised to discover the wealth of history and culture once they look beyond the scenery. Fabulous restaurants, beautiful shops, an art scene, and music venues are found in towns and villages throughout the County.