Sunday, August 23, 2009

New head of Pa. wine association, like many others, awaiting passage of state budget

Sam Landis is a 1998 bachelor of arts graduate of Williams College who rejoined the family business at Vynecrest Vineyards & Winery in 2002 after working in California for E&J Gallo. Sam assists his parents (Jan and John) in the winemaking, is involved in promotion and as of April became the president of the Pennsylvania Wine Association, stepping in for Bob Mazza. It's a two-year term.

Spoke with Sam by phone last week and have been remiss in not getting the interview transcribed and up on line. I ask him to name a couple of his initiatives, and not surprisingly the first one was connected to the budget impasse in Harrisburg.

"We got a line item of $240,000 last year, which is more than we’ve ever had in the past," he said, "and we were able to do a lot of initiatives with marketing that we’ve never done before. Also, with getting some help politically with some consultants in Harrisburg . . . so we’re now pushing to hopefully get that reinstated. Right now, the budget has been zeroed out with any sort of dollars toward the wine industry, so we’re pushing hard to keep fighting to get those dollars for us. It may not be the full 240 we got last year, but even half [we'd be happy with] just to keep us going. . . . It looks like that’s not going to be settled until September or October, which is the latest we heard. So that’s the big thing right now we’re really focused on . . . is just working funds for us for the next fiscal year."

Landis said the industry recently conducted a state-of-the-union report to, among other things, gather numbers that show how much money you're generating for the state. "We had it done in 2005 and our overall economic impact for the state of Pennsylvania, this was the multiplier effects, was $661 million. We just got the draft done for 2007 and it's $2.35 billion. So it’s a huge increase, and this is something we use as a political tool to go to Harrisburg and say, “I understand you’ve gotta make tough decisions in cutting things right now, but if you look multiplier effects of how many jobs, wages paid, revenue, taxes paid, I mean, we’re paying $252 million in taxes based on how much we wine we sell from a winery standpoint. We’re putting money back into the state with agriculture and tourism, so we’re just looking to use these numbers to show that we’re one of the industries that needs to be backed, even if it's in these hard times."

There's more, which I'll post either later today or on Monday.

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