C LIFTON SPRINGS — An Ontario County cider maker is taking advantage of a state economic program that provides companies the ability to operate tax-free for 10 years.

Star Cider has been accepted into the Start-Up NY program, Empire State Development announced. The family-owned company plans to build a new production facility and create at least five new jobs as part of its expansion. The site also will serve as a research and education center.

As part of the Start-Up program, companies must either be located on or near an eligible university or college; in this case, it’s Finger Lakes Community College.

FLCC spokeswoman Lenore Friend said the cider maker’s production facility will not be on any FLCC campus sites but that the company is looking for a suitable location near the main campus in Hopewell.

As with other Start-Up projects involving FLCC, said Friend, the alignment with Star Cider will provide students with “hands-on educational opportunities.”

The cider maker is owned by the husband and wife team of Cortni and Adam Stahl, as well as Adam’s brother Nathan Stahl.

Cortni Stahl, the company’s chief cider maker, said the alignment with FLCC will be beneficial for the business and the college. Star Cider plans on offering internships and research opportunities, including apple growing and cider making. Long- and short-term internship opportunities are envisioned, she said.

“We will have a small, experimental orchard on the site,” said Stahl, noting that the apples we eat aren’t necessarily the best ones for making cider. “We love the opportunity to collaborate with the college.”

Stahl said Star Cider is less than three years old, but she and her husband have been making cider as a hobby for more than a decade. Cider-making is a tradition in her husband’s family.

Star Cider gets most of its apples from Seneca Orchards, owned by Charles “Bud” Smith, in the hamlet of Seneca Castle.

The company currently makes its cider in Clifton Springs but does not have a tasting room, she said. They hope to open one soon.

Star Cider sells its beverages in about 40 bars, restaurants and craft breweries, mostly in the Rochester-Finger Lakes region.

The cider-making business is a small-but-growing segment of the state’s dynamic craft beverage industry. Stahl called the Finger Lakes region the “perfect place” for the hard-cider business.

“I think it’s (hard cider) definitely becoming more popular, and the Finger Lakes region is an incredible area for apples and hard ciders,” she said.

In 2011, according to Empire State Development, there were only five hard cider producers in New York. Today, there are nearly 60 cider producers and farm cideries operating in the state, many of them in the area.

Stahl said Star Cider is excited for the next chapter of the fledgling business.

“It’s a labor of love and a lot of labor,” said Stahl, who noted the company’s three owners will continue to keep their day jobs — for now.

“The reviews and recognition from our cider customers and fans give us the motivation we need to keep making great hard cider from locally sourced apples and fresh ingredients,” she said. “The approval of our Start-Up NY application is very exciting for us, as our hard work is beginning to pay off and is also a confirmation that we are moving in the right direction with our business.”

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