Appalachian Regional Commission Names Abbi Peters as Appalachian Leadership Institute Fellow

Appalachian Regional Commission Names Abbi Peters as Appalachian Leadership Institute Fellow

Abbi Peters to Represent Pennsylvania in Intensive Regional Leadership Development Program

Abbi Peters, EVP of Operations at PA Wilds Center

Abbi Peters, EVP of Operations at PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, was recently named as a 2020-21 Appalachian Leadership Institute Fellow.

Sept. 30, 2020, PA WILDS – The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) has named Abbi Peters, Executive Vice President of Operations for the PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship (PA Wilds Center), as a 2020-2021 Appalachian Leadership Institute Fellow.

As a Fellow, Peters will participate in the Appalachian Leadership Institute, an extensive nine-month series of online skill-building seminars featuring regional experts, peer-to-peer learning, and case study analysis beginning in mid-October through July, 2021. Topics include:

  • Designing effective economic development project proposals;
  • Integrating community assets into long-lasting economic development strategies;
  • Identifying resources available to spur economic development;
  • Locating and accessing investment capital from a variety of public and private sources;
  • Preparing competitive applications for public grant opportunities; and
  • Using expanded leadership skills to create strong coalitions.

Upon completion of the program, Peters will automatically become part of the Appalachian Leadership Institute Network, a peer-to-peer working group committed to Appalachia’s future.

Peters is part of the founding staff at the PA Wilds Center, a nonprofit launched in 2013. The Center helps coordinate and advance the PA Wilds Conservation Landscape partnership effort that is helping revitalize the 13-county PA Wilds region by growing nature tourism under a regional place-based brand to create jobs, inspire stewardship, diversify local economies and improve quality of life.

Peters is a co-founder of the Center’s Wilds Cooperative of PA, a value chain network of more than 350 rural entrepreneurs and organizations; and of the PA Wilds Conservation Shop, the nonprofit’s brick-and-mortar stores at state parks that sell local products from the Wilds Cooperative, helping rural businesses thrive while also building visitor capacity in the region (the PA Wilds sees almost 15 times its population in visitors). Over the next year, Peters will be spearheading development of the Center’s online marketplace, which will allow rural entrepreneurs to sell online under the PA Wilds brand, control their own inventory, drop ship from their locations and keep a larger cut of each sale.

“Peters is on the front lines of building an entrepreneurial ecosystem tied to our region’s place-based brand that, even in these early stages, is allowing dozens of rural businesses and entrepreneurs use the PA Wilds brand to reach markets and grow their companies,” says PA Wilds Center Founder and CEO Ta Enos. “This is not easy stuff to figure out and make work on a huge, economically-distressed, highly-rural landscape like ours, and Peters is a key person helping us figure it out. She is an innovative thinker, one of the fairest people I know, and has built an incredible team around her. She is also super skilled at setting up processes and systems that allow for accountability and successful implementation. We are thrilled she was selected for the Institute.”

Investments through the Appalachian Regional Commission have helped seed parts of the PA Wilds Center’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, and Peters and her team have participated in many workshops and conferences held by or in partnership with ARC over the years.

“We greatly value this regional network and want to continue to participate in it by sharing what we’ve learned and learning from others who are advancing their communities through bold initiatives,” Enos says.

Peters was selected via a competitive application process. ARC received over 100 applications for the 2020-2021 Appalachian Leadership Institute class and selected 40 applicants.

“Congratulations to the new class of Appalachian Leadership Institute Fellows. The skills development and network-building opportunities offered by this program have proven to be valuable, and this past year has shown that effective local leadership is essential,” said ARC Federal Co-Chairman Tim Thomas. “This program has adjusted well to the present circumstance and offers a unique opportunity to learn first-hand from those who have provided leadership for their communities through difficult circumstances.”

The Appalachian Leadership Institute is a comprehensive regional leadership training program developed by the Appalachian Regional Commission in partnership with the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; The Howard H. Baker Center for Public Policy; Tuskegee University; and Collective Impact. This is the second year of the program.

More information, including a complete list of current Fellows, is available at


About the Appalachian Regional Commission

The Appalachian Regional Commission ( is an economic development agency of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 420 counties across the Appalachian Region. ARC’s mission is to innovate, partner, and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia to help the Region achieve socioeconomic parity with the nation.


About the Pennsylvania Wilds

The Pennsylvania Wilds is a 13-county region that includes the counties of Cameron, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, Lycoming, McKean, Potter, Tioga, Warren, and northern Centre. The PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, Inc., is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to integrate conservation and economic development in a way that inspires the communities of the Pennsylvania Wilds. The PA Wilds Center promotes the region as a premier outdoor recreation destination and manages the Wilds Cooperative of PA, a business network of over 300 place-based businesses, as well as the PA Wilds Conservation Shop in an effort to help businesses connect with travelers and stimulate local economies. For more information on the PA Wilds Center, visit

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.