PA Wilds campaign encourages relocation to, working from region’s communities
Program seeks to tackle challenges related to rural outmigration
A new campaign being launched this year in the PA Wilds could have positive impacts for many communities across the rural region.
The Wilds Are Working: Recreation and Technology in Rural PA campaign seeks to raise awareness about the PA Wilds being a great place for remote and non-remote workers to live, work, and play. An initiative of the PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship (PA Wilds Center), in collaboration with several partners and funded by Ben Franklin Technology Partners through the Appalachian Regional Commission, the campaign will be piloted in the communities of Bellefonte and Kane in 2022. The goal is to develop a toolkit, incentivization package and application portal that will allow other regional communities to take advantage of the program in years to come.
With an eye toward tackling the challenges that come with outmigration and a dwindling tax base, the Wilds Are Working campaign seeks to empower workers to try out living, working, and giving in the PA Wilds communities for 2-4 weeks with a hope that some of those participants will decide to work in the region full-time. Modeled after case studies emerging from across Appalachia and the nation, this program is one of many that rural communities are implementing to incentivize and stimulate revitalization. Building on the movement, the Rural Outdoor Investment (ROI) Act looks to allocate $50 million annually to fund infrastructure improvements and similar marketing campaigns to help towns across the country plan and build recreation-based economies.
“More than half of businesses globally offer some capacity for remote work. Through educational content, marketing efforts, networking, and showcasing remote work/co-working spaces in the PA Wilds, we believe we can show residents and nonresidents alike the perks of working remotely as a potential career path and hopefully that will encourage more people to remain in and relocate to rural PA,” explained Abbi Peters, Chief Operations Officer at the PA Wilds Center.
“The opportunity will highlight the communities’ remote work facilities, nearby recreation opportunities and public lands, rural quality of life, and ways to get involved in the local community by way of nonprofits and entrepreneurship,” said Steve Brawley, President/CEO at Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central & Northern Pennsylvania. “As part of the incentivization package, the workers will be provided with a stipend that can only be used at participating local businesses.”
In addition, the Wilds Are Working campaign includes a “Picture Yourself in the PA Wilds” window cling initiative that will celebrate nearby outdoor recreation assets and local entrepreneurs. The wraps will be installed in the first-floor windows of underutilized buildings, adding momentum to each community’s revitalization movement and building on recommendations from the PA Wilds Design Guide for Community Character Stewardship, an award-winning planning document for rural communities.
“Ultimately, we believe that even if the participants don’t end up relocating to the region, the rural communities participating in the program will benefit from the enhanced co-branding with the PA Wilds; the marketing of their community as a great place to live, work and recreate; the program’s toolkits; and the program’s local spending system,” Peters said.
Additional details and updates about the program will be announced at www.pawildscenter.org.
ABOUT THE PA 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 is home to the greatest concentration of public lands in the Commonwealth. 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. Based in the region, the Center is the lead nonprofit for the PA Wilds Conservation Landscape effort, a 15+year collaborative effort by local, state and federal partners to establish the region as a premier outdoor recreation destination as a way to diversify local economies, attract investment, inspire stewardship, improve quality of life and attract and retain the region’s working-age population. PA Wilds Center works closely with PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, PA Department of Community and Economic Development, the region’s county governments, and other investors in the regional strategy.
Among its many programs, the PA Wilds Center operates the regional visitor site pawilds.com and related marketing; manages The Wilds Cooperative of PA, a robust network of makers and other rural entrepreneurs and partner organizations that are helping to grow the region as a destination; houses the PA Wilds Design Guide for Community Character Stewardship, a free planning resource for communities; manages the PA Wilds trademark for the public good; is scaling a commerce platform (brick and mortar PA Wilds Conservation Shops and the online marketplace ShopThePAWilds.com) that fills gaps in visitor services while expanding market access for rural entrepreneurs and raising funds for conservation. The Center is also the fiscal and administrative home of the PA Wilds Planning Team, a regional stakeholder group formed in 2006 through a ground-breaking Intergovernmental Cooperation Agreement.
For more information on the PA Wilds Center, visit www.PAWildsCenter.org. To learn more about the WCO, visit www.WildsCoPA.org. Explore the PA Wilds at www.pawilds.com. Find products made in the region at www.shopthepawilds.com.