By Amy Neff Roth, Utica Observer-Dispatch
Tourism president: Turning Stone ‘vital’
One impact of Turning Stone Resort Casino’s presence in Oneida County hasn’t been studied in detail – how many of its guests visit other tourist sites and local businesses while in the area.
“Anecdotally, it’s vital to our travel and tourism industry here in Oneida County as well as the greater Central New York region,” said Kelly Blazosky, president of Oneida County Tourism. “They provide a quality experience. They bring in high-quality entertainment that attracts people from all across the country for various reasons, whether it’s golf or concerts and special events that they host.”
But there are no numbers detailing exactly where those visitors go while in the area, she said.
Villa vineyard location purposely chosen
When Mary Jo Beach was looking for a place to open her wine-making business, she chose a location in Verona just down the street from Turning Stone Resort Casino.
“I wouldn’t have done it if wasn’t going to be by the Turning Stone,” said Beach, owner of Villa Verona Vineyard, which is in the process of building a separate bistro and tasting room.
And that proximity has paid off, she said.
Turning Stone puts her flyers on their racks and sometimes sends tourist buses her way, Beach said. And lots of Turning Stone visitors stop by for tastings and to buy her wine, she said.
She’s even had a conversation about having her wine served at Turning Stone, she said.
“It would be a big deal for me because they’re a major force in our industry here in the Mohawk Valley and here in this area,” she said.
Utica Coffee: ‘Big help for our business’
If you ever have a hankering for Utica Coffee Roasting Company coffee while visiting Turning Stone Resort Casino, you’re in luck.
The local coffee is served by some of the resort’s restaurants.
“It’s been really a big help for our business,” said owner Frank Elias. “When you think about the past five years, to have them as a customer, really, it’s been critical to our growth and our success.”
Elias said he really appreciates Turning Stone’s focus on quality and willingness to pay for it.
And if you want to try the company’s Italian roast, you’ll have to visit Turning Stone’s Pino restaurant; it’s the only place it’s available, Elias said.
Many refugees find work at resort
The county’s oldest residents, the Oneida Indian Nation, have helped its newest residents by hiring many refugees at Turning Stone Resort Casino.
“They’ve been really one of our largest employers for many, many years,” said Shelly Callahan, executive director of the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees.
Out of 44 job placements in the first part of April, 14 were at Turning Stone, she said.
Turning Stone offers jobs for many skill levels and opportunities for workers to move up the ladder, she said.
And she expects nanotechnology to offer similar benefits for refugees, she said.
“Everybody thinks of the upper most, the high-end jobs …. but there’s going to be lots of opportunities for folks with a two-year degree and lots of opportunities for other jobs within those manufacturing buildings,” she said.
Vernon Downs competes with Turning Stone
Vernon Downs in Vernon and Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona sit four miles apart and undoubtedly share “players,” as manager Scott Freeman called customers.
But that proximity is not good for business at Vernon Downs, he said.
“We don’t benefit from them. We compete with them,” Freeman said.
And the opening of Yellow Brick Road Casino in Chittenango last year by Oneida Nation Enterprises further hurts business, he said.
“The amount of gamblers did not increase,” Freeman said. “What it did was dilute the market.”