Captain Jerry Gertz, owner and operator of Erie Canal Cruises, is always planning for the next big thing, and that thing is typically a bigger boat. And when his plans start to materialize, Gertz knows where to look for financing – NYBDC.
In 2006, when Gertz, who provides daily cruises on the Erie Canal featuring narration of the canal’s history, and his now late wife Kimberly decided to commission the construction of a larger boat, they sought financing from NYBDC. That project, which was also supported by a loan from Adirondack Bank, was a great success, so much so that in 2011 when Gertz made plans to purchase another even larger boat, he contacted his former lenders, Tom Reynolds of NYBDC and Al Alfred of Adirondack Bank.
"When Adirondack Bank approached me about trying to help Captain Jerry back in 2005, even I was a bit skeptical at first," said Reynolds. “But after seeing what the Captain accomplished with Lil Diamond II, I was a big supporter of his idea to build a larger tour and party vessel in the Lil Diamond III. Now Erie Canal Cruises and the Gems Along the Mohawk complex are one of the premier tourist attractions in the Mohawk Valley. This is real economic/tourism development at work. "Adirondack Bank was pleased to work with the NYBDC once again to assist Erie Canal Cruises with the building of their new boat. We are continually looking for ways to help our communities, and projects like this that bring in additional tourism and dollars to the Herkimer and Oneida County areas are a benefit to everyone," said Alfred.
In the beginning, Erie Canal Cruises had only a 34-foot, 36-passenger boat that offered daily cruises traveling through one of the canal’s locks and lowering 20 feet into the Mohawk River. The 2006 loan helped finance a 50-foot, 60-passenger boat, which allowed the cruise line to triple the number of motor coach tours it served. The latest project was the construction and purchase of a 150-passenger boat, delivered in August 2012 and funded by a $175,000 loan from NYBDC and a $175,000 loan from Adirondack Bank.
The newest boat allows Erie Canal Cruises to accommodate passengers from two large charter buses and to host large social and corporate events. Meals on the boat are provided by the Waterfront Grille, which is co-located with Erie Canal Cruises at the waterfront retail center Gems Along the Mohawk in Herkimer.
Although Erie Canal Cruises had to halt operations for about a month late in the summer of 2012 due to major flooding in Herkimer, Gertz said business in 2013 has been very good. "Things have gone very well this year, and our volume is up quite a bit," he said. "The boat has done everything we wanted it to do." Bus tours from as far away as Ohio, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma and even California have made their way to Herkimer for a trip with Erie Canal Cruises.
Gertz credits NYBDC and Adirondack Bank with making the project an easy one. "Tom Reynolds is just spectacular and deeply reassuring," he said. "Whatever we needed, he provided."
Although Gertz is 74, he has no plans for retirement. In fact, his sights are set on yet another larger boat. "I’d like for this newest boat to eventually become the smaller boat when we build an even larger boat."
Pictured Below: Tom Reynolds of NYBDC, Captain Jerry Gertz of Erie Canal Cruises, and Al Alfred of Adirondack Bank