There’s a certain contingent of people in any community that is skeptical of just about anything the local government does.
There are plenty of them in Geneva. Just look at any social media page.
When Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last year that Geneva would play host to the Finger Lakes region’s new welcome center and serve as a gateway to a region where tourism plays such a huge role in the economy, there were doubters.
And when it was learned that Geneva’s Massa Construction got the lucrative contract to transform the former city events and visitors center into the new welcome center, there were even more.
But we would suggest that those cynics take a walk or drive down to Lakefront Park to see for themselves if the new Finger Lakes Welcome Center is such a bad thing.
Folks can have their beefs with Gov. Cuomo — we’ve had them as well — but no one can doubt that he likes Geneva and sees the progress so far: a rebuilt lakefront, with more amenities on the way, and a revitalized downtown that is the envy of many communities.
Cuomo likes it so much that he has nudged the state into investing $15 million to help it grow — $10 million through the Downtown Revitalization Initiative and $5 million for the Finger Lakes Welcome Center. That’s an impressive investment of taxpayer money into one community.
The DRI program and its “Hunger Games” winner-takes-all philosophy has plenty of critics and rightfully so. But the city earned those dollars by putting in a great application.
The Finger Lakes Welcome Center? That’s icing on the cake.
Many could have argued that since Rochester is now classified as part of the Finger Lakes — at least on economic development terms — that it should be the location of this region’s economic and cultural center.
That’s what happened in Syracuse.
Instead, Geneva was selected, and the result is a $5 million transformation of an underperforming events and visitors center into a place where thousands of visitors will stop to learn more about the history, food and culture of the region. And it’s sitting at the top of Seneca Lake.
Further, for all the grumblings about Geneva-based Massa seemingly getting every contract around here, this company — along with several other contractors — did an amazing job. Don’t believe us? Again, we say drop into the welcome center when you get a chance. While Massa didn’t do the design, it fulfilled the vision.
Don’t forget, too, that $5 million was an investment in local workers — from the employees of Massa to many of the subcontractors.
In short, it’s the kind of project most communities in the region would have killed for.
As Kenan Baldridge, who represented Wayne County at Wednesday’s event, cracked: If they want to move it to downtown Rose he’d be more than willing to take it.
So take pride, Geneva. You are now the official welcome mat for the Finger Lakes.
Ron Burgundy of “Anchorman” would have said, “It’s kind of a big deal.”
Yes, it is.