Saturday, September 21, 2019

Pennsylvania Wilds Receives Federal Grant To Support Entrepreneurial Growth In The PA Wilds

On September 20, the PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, Inc. announced they have been awarded an $860,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration to accelerate the growth of the Pennsylvania Wilds entrepreneurial ecosystem.
The three-year grant, which will be matched with $277,500 in local investment, will expand market access for businesses in the Pennsylvania Wilds via an e-commerce marker marketplace.
It will also support the expansion of the PA Wilds Conservation Shops-- brick and mortar gift shops that sell regionally-made products at state parks through a public-private partnership with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. 
The grant will support the opening of a second flagship location and also transition to a maker marketplace so local companies selling products and services there can reach new markets and keep a larger cut of every sale.
The EDA investment will also support continued growth of the Center’s entrepreneurial network, the Wilds Cooperative of PA, through expanded education, resources and networking opportunities for small businesses and other community and economic development stakeholders.
The Center’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is differentiated from others by the PA Wilds regional brand and a strategy that balances economic growth with conservation stewardship principles. 
Nature tourism and outdoor recreation are a billion-dollar economic driver for communities in the Pennsylvania Wilds, buoyed by the region’s more than 2 million acres of public land, and intrinsically tied to its working forests and forest products industry.
“As a lifelong resident of rural Pennsylvania and an avid outdoorsman, I can’t stress the importance of the PA Wilds Center enough,” said Congressman Glenn “GT” Thompson (PA-15). “This grant is incredibly well deserved, and I know it will help the Center carry out their mission of conservation and economic development in rural communities throughout the Pennsylvania Wilds.”
Dozens of local, regional and state partners have been involved in the Pennsylvania Wilds revitalization effort over its 15-year history, and Ta Enos, CEO and Founder of the PA Wilds Center, thanked several of them Friday.
“Federal grant programs are very competitive,” Enos said. “The PA Wilds Planning Team, North Central and Northwest development commissions, our state partners DCNR and the PA Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), Rep. Glenn Thompson’s office and a lot of small local businesses threw their shoulder to the wheel and helped us get the application the final mile. We are grateful for their support.
“Our region is the size of Massachusetts and has seen decades of divestment and population decline that we are trying to recover from,” Enos said. “The Wilds work is an important regional strategy that is helping fuel our comeback. We applaud EDA for investing with us.”
The Pennsylvania Wilds has the greatest concentration of public land in the Commonwealth, including eight state forests, 29 state parks, 50 state game lands, and PA’s only National Forest (the Allegheny National Forest). 
It is also home to two National Wild & Scenic Rivers, the largest wild elk herd in the northeast and some of the darkest night skies in the country. It is one of the largest blocks of green between New York City and Chicago. 
The region’s rugged physical features are often obstacles to economic development and broadband and transportation infrastructure, but they have also shaped the region’s culture and identity in positive ways, cultivating an independent, entrepreneurial spirit and a common sense conservation ethic.
This EDA investment builds upon major state infrastructure investments in the region to grow the $1.8 billion nature and heritage tourism economy in the Pennsylvania Wilds, such as the Elk Country Visitor Center, Kinzua Bridge visitor center, Wildlife Center at Sinnemahoning State Park, and PA Lumber Museum, as well as many locally-driven recreation and heritage projects region-wide.
The PA Wilds includes Warren, McKean, Potter, Tioga, Lycoming, Clinton, Cameron, Elk, Forest, Clarion, Jefferson, Clearfield and northern Centre counties.
For more information, visit the PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, Inc. website.
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