Fall Seminar Preview: NYSAC Sets Its Sights on Niagara County

By Jeanette Stanziano, NYSAC Director of Education and Training
The “New York State of Mind” is often associated with urban icons like the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty. But as any true New Yorker knows, New York State is made up of a variety of breathtaking natural wonders and diverse landscapes, not the least of which is the mesmerizing power of Niagara Falls and the surrounding picturesque and historic community of Niagara County.

Join us in September as the New York State Association of Counties returns to beautiful Niagara County to celebrate the 2016 NYSAC Fall Seminar. It has been eight years since Niagara has served as host-county and rolled out the red carpet for NYSAC's annual autumn educational showcase. We have no doubt that the leadership of Niagara County will be shining a spotlight on the Western Region of New York State, showcasing some of the extraordinary success stories of their economic development initiatives. Hundreds of county officials from across New York will flock to Niagara Falls on September 19-21, 2016 for three days of educational training programs, keynote sessions, and networking opportunities crafted specifically for the training needs of New York's dedicated county officials.

Get to Know Beautiful Niagara County
The Niagara County Legislature's Chairman, Wm. Keith McNall, said he looks forward to introducing conference attendees to all Niagara County has to offer. "Niagara County has culture, history, and amazing natural scenery," McNall said. "We have a sport fishing industry that is unrivaled, the 'Flight
of Five' locks that were the linchpin of the Erie Canal and the opening of the West, a Niagara Wine Trail that produces wines that rival California's best, and the world-famous Falls. We'll be endeavoring to introduce our fellow county leaders from across New York State to all this great county has to offer." McNall and County Manager Rick Updegrove, a former legislator and longtime NYSAC conference attendee, have formed a host committee that includes individuals involved with the last NYSAC conference held in Niagara County, to finalize venues and plans.

Niagara County and the Niagara Falls community have a history steeped in hundreds of years as a travelers' destination for explorers, newlyweds, and daredevils looking to challenge the awe inspiring natural power of the Falls. Niagara Falls was first discovered by French explorer Father Louis Hennepin in 1678 and the Niagara region soon became a French stronghold, as they built forts at the mouth of the Niagara River, which
is now known as Old Fort Niagara.

The Niagara area has been a founding leader in alternative energy sources and was the birthplace of commercial hydro-electric power. Nikola Tesla developed the alternating current system in Niagara, which allowed for the transmission of power generated along the Niagara River to homes and businesses. In 1895, one of the world's first commercial hydropower plants was constructed. Energy from the Niagara River has been harnessed for hydro-electric power generation as far back as the mid-eighteenth century. Power generation facilities along the Niagara River supply more than one-quarter of all power used in New York State and Ontario. Additionally, 50 to 75 percent of the water flowing along the Niagara River is diverted from the Falls to hydroelectric power generating stations, which makes it an efficient and clean source of alternative energy. Amazingly, four of the five Great Lakes drain into the Niagara River, (Superior, Michigan, Huron and Erie) before emptying into Lake Ontario. These five Great Lakes make up almost one-fifth of the world's fresh water supply, making the Niagara area truly a natural resource of epic environmental proportions.

Another of Niagara County's natural jewels can be found at Niagara Falls State Park, which is the oldest state park in the United States. In the late 1860's, America's first landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted (perhaps best known for designing New York City's Central Park), established a group of civic-minded industrialists championing some of the earliest environmental initiatives to preserve the natural beauty of the green spaces around Niagara Falls. Olmsted's philosophy was based on the premise that parks should be places of natural beauty, where everyday citizens could embrace nature. Today, Olmstead is considered an environmental visionary ahead of his time. Today, the oldest American state park retains Olmsted's original vision by maintaining native flora, preserving its world renowned vistas, and providing public access year around.

Vineyards and Wineries
North of the Niagara escarpment and just below the mist of the powerful raging Falls is the Lake Ontario plain, located along the lower river.
The fertile soil and adequate rainfall of the Niagara region make for excellent growing conditions for grapes. The well-known “Niagara” grape variety, which is the source of most American white grape juice, was first grown in Niagara County in 1868. In recent years, New York State developed an economic development initiative capitalizing on the grape growing areas of the Lake Ontario plain by establishing and promoting the Niagara Wine Trail. The Niagara region has a unique microclimate that contributes to the successful production of worldclass wines, along with beautiful countryside situated on the Niagara Escarpment. The Niagara Falls area now has over 16 working wineries on the Niagara Wine Trail and has helped to improve the economy of Niagara County by drawing thousands of wine enthusiasts annually to the region. Niagara wineries offer selections for all tastes and are open year around which has helped keep visitors coming to the area beyond the summer tourist months.

Sport Fishing
Life on the water is part of the culture in Niagara County, including some of the best sport fishing in the country. From annual fishing tournaments and derbies, Niagara County's Economic Development Committee estimates that sport fishing brings in close to $30 million dollars annually to the county through hotel stays, restaurant spending, shopping, and other related purchases connected to the sport.

Historic Locks and Canals
Historical journeys can be found beyond the Falls in the City of Lockport which features an extensive tourism focus on the Erie Canal.  Explore the historic and newly rehabilitated “Flight of Five” Erie Canal Locks 67-71, constructed in 1838. Take an underground boat ride and view ruins from the industrial revolution, water tunnels, ancient stalactites, flow stone, and other geological formations and artifacts left behind in the underground caves by the men who built the tunnel in the early days of the Erie Canal. Travel through Lockport Locks 34 & 35, which allow boats to travel “uphill” 60 feet through the Niagara Escarpment ridge of rock where you can view the industrial ruins of the 1800s, allowing a glimpse into America's industrial revolution and the inspiration and fortitude it took to build the Erie Canal.

Your Stay in Niagara Falls
Whether feeling the spray of the mighty Falls on you face, or catching a 20 pounder at the end of your fishing line, Niagara County offers many ways
to explore this unique corner of New York State. Since the 2008 NYSAC Fall Seminar, Niagara County has successfully secured new private investment in the county which has resulted in the addition of over 1,020 new hotel rooms in the Niagara Falls area alone over the past five years. This year, NYSAC Fall Seminar attendees will be based at the Sheraton at the Falls Hotel in the heart of Niagara Falls. The hotel is conveniently located steps away from our meeting location, the Conference Center of Niagara Falls. In the past few years, the Sheraton at the Falls has undergone a major transformation, including completely renovated sleeping rooms, meeting space, and state-of-the-art public spaces. The hotel recently
added a TGI Fridays as well as the Rainforest Café in addition to the original full service Starbucks and Sweet Treats shop on the premises.

The 2016 NYSAC Fall Seminar 
The Conference Center at Niagara Falls will host the NYSAC Fall Seminar workshops, exhibit hall, conference registration, keynote address, and all conference-related meetings. The Center is the hallmark of modern, cutting edge meeting, equipped with ergonomic seating and state-of-the art technology to support the 28 training sessions that will be featured at the Fall Seminar.

The educational topics of the NYSAC 2016 Fall Seminar will include sessions on taxation, public safety, government efficiency, pre-k and Early Intervention, procurement, ethics, energy, rural affairs, economic development, and indigent legal defense just to name a few. Our keynote presenter will be TransPro CEO Mark Aesch who will be discussing his new book “Saving America: Seven Proven Steps to Make Government Deliver Great Results.”

Mark your calendar for NYSAC'S 2016 Fall Seminar, September 19-21, 2016 in beautiful Niagara County. From educational forums to economic development success stories,Niagara County and NYSAC are teaming up to offer New York's county officials a training expo that will not only fulfill your educational needs, but also serve to inspire your own community economic development success stories. Early-Bird Registration is now open
for the Fall Seminar at fall2016 or look for printed registration materials arriving in mailboxes in June. Visit the NYSAC website at for further details. Niagara County…”We've been expecting you!”

(Special thanks to the following sources for information and language utilized in this article:,,,, Niagara County Economic Development Committee April 2015 report, Niagara County Manager Rick Updegrove, Niagara County Public Information Officer Christian Peck, Niagara County Clerk of the Board Mary Jo Tamburlin, and the
Niagara County Board Chair, the Honorable Wm. Keith McNall)