Upstate New York’s Best-kept Business Secret

Steuben County, NY
Written by Grace McDermott

Located in upstate New York, Steuben County has been one of the state’s best-kept industry secrets, until now. With a diverse economic footprint, a strong workforce and some of the best views upstate New York has to offer, Steuben has become a hotspot for big business and big adventure alike.
This county that shares a border with the state of Pennsylvania is geographically the third-largest county in the state. It occupies a total of 1400 square miles, which is larger than the entire state of Rhode Island. It takes just over an hour to drive from one end of the county to the other on the I-86 corridor.

Size and location are two features that are key to economic development, and when it comes to this, Steuben has a homegrown advantage. It is only a day’s drive from one-fifth of the entire US population with the added benefit of having three major interstates within county lines. Less than a three-hour drive from Manhattan or Niagara Falls, and even closer to the cities of Buffalo, Syracuse and Rochester, the county provides the unbeatable opportunity of access and does so at a lower cost and with a better quality of life than a major metropolitan centre.

Due to its size alone, Steuben has always been a hub of economic diversity. As such, it boasts a broad portfolio of industry leaders including Alstom, World Kitchen, Siemens and Corning Incorporated, to name a few. Some areas are lucky enough to have one thriving industry, but Steuben has manufacturing, agriculture, and tourism. This diversity has made the local economic footprint notoriously stable and able to withstand the test of time and the uncertainty of economic turbulence.

James Johnson, the executive director of The Steuben County Industrial Development Agency (IDA), explained that economic diversity in Steuben is not haphazard, but rather, an on-going commitment that sits at the core of Steuben’s growth plans. “We are very diverse in our economy, and that’s a great thing about Steuben,” Johnson explained. “[At the IDA] we are kept busy because we believe making sure all sectors of the economy grow, it’s something that’s very important to us.”

Steuben is the home of Corning Incorporated, a Fortune 500 company that is breaking new ground in its field. Located on the eastern edge of the county, in the city of Corning, Corning Incorporated carries out its administrative functions and the majority of its extensive research and development work in Steuben County. As a result, the county has a long history and robust infrastructure built to facilitate manufacturing and material science and technology.

This is ranked one of largest potato and dairy producing counties in the state of New York. Outside of the metropolitan areas of Corning and Hornell, agriculture remains a primary economic staple. In addition to potatoes, the county houses a large number of dairy farms and other agricultural businesses. In line with its comprehensive approach to economic growth, it is no surprise that there is a small but growing food processing industry in Steuben.

Recently, The Southern Tier Region was selected as one of the winners of the Upstate Revitalization Initiative. This accolade has given Steuben county access to a five hundred million dollar pool that can be used for a wide range of business and industrial development purposes. The county now has plans to develop its transit manufacturing, agricultural and tourism industries further in the upcoming years.

Steuben’s economic footprint is a feat in and of itself, and its highly-skilled workforce has directly fed into this success. At present, ten percent of the county’s working population is employed in manufacturing roles. This figure is promising to businesses seeking growth, as it is an insurance policy for labor. Its ongoing training and an existing base of skilled laborers mean that Steuben is never short of manufacturing expertise.

On the far western edge of the county sits the city of Hornell where Alstom Manufacturing has its North American hub for rail car manufacturing. The company has traditionally been known as a leader in the national transportation industry, and because of a recent contract with Amtrak, is seeing a new era of growth. Taking on the task of creating the next generation of railcars takes people; consequently, the company has projected workforce growth which will drive the creation of over five hundred new manufacturing jobs. The workforce growth is notable in itself, but the knock-on economic effects of building a supply chain of service providers and related industries to support Alston’s growth will have a positive ripple effect for years to come.

A recent examination of the region’s infrastructure and industrial strengths proved that the advanced transportation products and components industry is a perfect fit for Steuben. “We are always looking for new opportunities to grow our manufacturing industry,” Johnson explained.

A closer look at the existing industrial leaders in the area proves that this perfect pairing is already being capitalized on by some of the nation’s transportation manufacturing leaders. Alstom is working diligently on a renowned advanced rail project, and Corning Incorporated is a world leader in catalytic converter development, so the supply chain that will feed this next industrial revolution in Steuben is already strong.

When you look at the concentration of providers to the transportation products and components industry, it becomes abundantly clear that Steuben’s location is uniquely advantageous. Home to one of the largest clusters of transit-related manufacturing businesses along the I-86 corridor; Steuben offers a strong structure for growth.

“We believe in natural business growth from our existing business bases,” Mr. Johnson affirmed. Further opportunities are in the works to enhance the existing manufacturing footprint while growing and diversifying within the sector. It is clear that the transportation products and components industry is quickly becoming an important part of the area’s plans for future growth.

The future of Steuben is exciting. Steuben offers residents the lifestyle benefits of a rural area with the opportunity and diversity of a large community. This ideal mix is supported by the area’s multinational organizations and excellent public school district. The initiatives will help add to the tax base and further improve quality of life offerings and population growth.

Steuben is a great place to live and a great place to visit, and tourism remains one of the top sectors here. One of the most popular attractions in upstate New York, The Corning Museum of Glass, attracts over 400,000 visitors a year. Yet, in recent years it is the area’s natural beauty that has gained interest from people across the country. Tourists seeking outdoor adventure and serenity now flock to Steuben, with autumn presenting some of the most brilliant colors and scenes New York has to offer.

The county is a haven of natural beauty, particularly rivers and lakes. Keuka lake, one of the largest Finger Lakes in New York, is located in the north part of Steuben, as are the Chemung, Canisteo, Cohocton and Tioga Rivers, as well as the Waneta, Lamoka and Loon lakes. The great infrastructure for outdoor adventures means this has been a hotspot for hunters for decades. In line with this abundance of outdoor allure, the county is home to a variety of hiking trails and biking routes and long scenic drives.

If the wilderness is not your thing, the county hosts several award-winning wineries and museums making this the perfect place for tourists looking to escape the bustle of the city or a destination for those seeking award winning finger lake wines. Wineries and breweries are popping up across the county. Steuben’s outdoor recreation is matched by its offerings for foodies and wine lovers alike.



To Make a Northwest Passage

Read Our Current Issue


From Here to There

April 2024

Peace of Mind

March 2024

Making the Smart Grid Smarter

February 2024

More Past Editions

Featured Articles