Research funded by Center for Rural PA shows positive impacts of the Pennsylvania Wilds brand

Research funded by Center for Rural PA shows positive impacts of the Pennsylvania Wilds brand

New research made possible by The Center for Rural Pennsylvania has demonstrated that the Pennsylvania Wilds brand is having a positive impact for the communities it serves.

To better understand and evaluate the community and economic impacts of the Pennsylvania Wilds, researchers Dr. Susan Ryan and Dr. Paul Hettler of Pennsylvania Western University, formerly Clarion University, conducted a comprehensive mixed-methods study in 2022. They surveyed visitors, businesses and residents; conducted an economic impact analysis; and completed a case study analysis, which was released this summer.

Overall, the research determined that brand management for the Pennsylvania Wilds is well executed. Findings showed that visitors, businesses and residents recognized the Pennsylvania Wilds brand attributes of environmental stewardship and economic development. In addition, residents and businesses indicated pride in belonging to the region.

According to the study team’s analysis, the PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship – the nonprofit charged with managing the regional brand and coordinating the regional strategy for economic development – has multidimensionally satisfied and exceeded 15 established industry best practices for place-based tourism branding and development.

Over the 10 years analyzed in the study (2011-2021), the research showed that while the region experienced a population decline, regional economic contributions from the tourism industry increased. 

“It’s encouraging to see studies reinforce the impacts of the PA Wilds Center’s and our partners’ work. Federal, regional, and statewide investments have continued to be made in the PA Wilds region, allowing us to build upon previous successes and increase those positive impacts exponentially,” said Ta Enos, founder and CEO of the PA Wilds Center. “One particularly heartening statistic was related to the sense of pride in the region.”

The survey asked residents if they were proud to be part of the resident community of the Pennsylvania Wilds. Eighty-five percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement.

The Pennsylvania Wilds is a 13-county region that is designated as both a Tourism Region by the PA Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) and a Conservation Landscape by the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), due to its unique natural and cultural assets and a shared history and conservation legacy.

The PA Wilds Center has a formal agreement with the PA DCED to manage the Pennsylvania Wilds place-based brand. It is also the external lead nonprofit for the Pennsylvania Wilds Conservation Landscape, as designated by the PA DCNR.

While the PA Wilds Center was founded in 2013 as a 501(c)3 nonprofit to spearhead the regional strategy, the PA Wilds Planning Team was formed through a groundbreaking intergovernmental cooperative agreement in 2006 to look at regional planning and capacity-building issues. The PA Wilds Planning Team is comprised of county planners as voting members, and over the years, other economic development, tourism and conservation stewardship partners have joined in the meetings to increase collaboration within the region.

”This study, which focused on the economic impacts of the Pennsylvania Wilds brand and regional marketing, did not dive into all of the entrepreneurial ecosystem components managed by the PA Wilds Center, including the original PA Wilds Artisan Trail, which was rebranded as the Wilds Cooperative of Pennsylvania to reflect its growing membership in 2015, or the PA Wilds commerce platforms, which help local artisans bring their products to market,” explained Enos. “By 2021, the final year of this study, the Wilds Cooperative had grown to more than 375 members and more than $1.5 million worth of local products were sold at the PA Wilds Conservation Shop at Kinzua Bridge State Park, which opened in 2016. Since 90 percent of products sold at our shops are sourced from local makers at wholesale cost, that equates to more than $750,000 invested in artisan businesses rooted in our region.”

Members of the Wilds Cooperative gain access to marketing and branding tools, professional development and referral services, and other peer networking opportunities to help them grow alongside the brand. As a result of membership, members have reported hiring and expansion activities over the years. Between 2019 and 2021, membership surveys found that PA Wilds efforts helped participating businesses retain 44 jobs and create 61 new jobs. 

“The team at PA Wilds Center appreciates the research team’s interest in this study and we applaud the efforts to continue understanding the positive impact of the Pennsylvania Wilds brand in this rural region,” Enos added.

Read the full report, Community and Economic Impact of the Pennsylvania Wilds, at or click here.


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 and its 2+ million acres of public lands as a premier outdoor recreation destination as a way to diversify local economies, inspire stewardship, attract investment, retain population and improve quality of life. The PA Wilds Center’s core programs seek to help businesses leverage the PA Wilds brand and connect with new market opportunities, including: the Wilds Cooperative of PA, a network of more than 575 place-based businesses and organizations, and the PA Wilds Conservation Shop, a retail outlet primarily featuring products sourced from the WCO. For more information on the PA Wilds Center, visit To learn more about the WCO, visit Explore the PA Wilds at Find regionally made products at

Media Contact:

Britt Madera | PA Wilds Center Communications Manager

570-948-1051 | [email protected]

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