1-81 Southern Tier Welcome Center showcases area and state businesses

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. - New York State is offering more than just a place to rest for drivers heading into Greater Binghamton.

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul was in our area to unveil the Southern Tier Welcome Center located along I-81 North in Kirkwood.

The rest area and welcome center includes large photo displays of tourist attractions, an interactive touch-screen trip planner, and locally produced food and beverages.

The center has drawn criticism from Congresswoman Claudia Tenney, as she claims it violates federal laws.

Tenney says a federal law requires rest areas to only sell food and beverages out of vending machines.

But, Governor Andrew Cuomo passed an initiative to sell goods produced in New York State at the rest areas.

Tenney says New York State is choosing who can promote their products at the store, which isn't fair for other local businesses.

"The question isn't whether or not to use vending machines or small businesses, the question is why is the state picking winners and losers? It should be a situation where everyone should have an opportunity to have their products sold and showcased at this I-81 site," said Tenney

New York State Agricultural Commissioner Richard Ball says Cornell Cooperative Extension of Broome County, is operating the Taste New York food and beverage section, which showcases over 200 companies from the Southern Tier, and over 1,000 producers across the state.

Additionally, a New York State DOT representative says they have an agreement with the Federal Government to sell items because it's promoting tourism.

"Anyone who is a critic of the Taste New York Program should come to this facility and tell the producers, the agricultural people, and the vinyards that this isn't worth while. We have done an amazing job over the last three and a half years to promote New York State goods and products and we're going to continnue," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul.

Commissioner Ball says any New York State producer can contact his office to offer their products at the welcome center.

Other local touches on the welcome center include an I Love New York NASCAR racecar from Watkins Glen, a glass exhibit from Corning and a large dining area that depicts a carousel.


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