PA Wilds communities, programs featured at PA Downtown Center Conference

SCRANTON – Communities and programs in the Pennsylvania Wilds were highlighted as part of the 2023 Pennsylvania Downtown Center’s Conference, held in Scranton June 25-28.

Billed as the Commonwealth’s premier revitalization conference, the event brings together more than 200 community and economic development professionals to learn together, share best practices and recognize achievements. This year’s event included more than 40 educational sessions, ranging from traditional educational workshops to mobile tours to demonstrate some of the host community’s implementation projects. 


Pictured, from left: Ellen Matis of Hello Social Co. and Abbi Peters of PA Wilds Center offer a presentation on the Wilds Are Working program at the 2023 PA Downtown Center Conference.

In addition to being an exhibitor at the event to help draw attention to the outdoor recreation opportunities available in the region, PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, Inc. staff was proud to present an informational session on the Wilds Are Working: A Remote Lifestyle Experience. 

The session, titled “Remote Work Program Activates Local Communities,” helped community leaders understand all the aspects of the remote work program piloted in the PA Wilds in 2022, as well as how that program continues to grow and make meaningful economic impacts in the downtowns where it is implemented. 

PA Wilds Center COO Abbi Peters presented the session alongside Ellen Matis, CEO of Hello Social Co. and contracted project manager for the Wilds Are Working program.

“We are proud of the Wilds Are Working program and how it truly invests in our communities and the local small businesses,” said Peters. “This program, which was piloted in 2022 and will be moving to new communities in 2023 and 2024, is helping to position our rural towns as part of the PA Wilds outdoor recreation destination and as great places to work. At the same time, it is creating opportunities for the communities to evaluate how they welcome new residents.”

The Wilds Are Working initiative helps PA Wilds communities host up to five remote workers for four weeks. This allows the participating individuals to test out living in a rural community with the hopes that many of them will relocate and become active residents in the region, which is tackling the challenges that come with outmigration and a dwindling tax base. Selected participants, who are chosen by the communities, receive lodging for the duration of their stay as well as a living stipend that can only be spent at local businesses via a PA Wilds Gift Card, powered by Yiftee.

“We see the Wilds Are Working program as a good example of how communities of all sizes can get creative with incentivizing relocation to their area. This program was intentional about being locally led, ensuring that small businesses in the communities were beneficiaries and integrating important feedback loops into the process from the outset,” Peters explained.

Funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) through Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern Pennsylvania, the Wilds Are Working program was modeled after case studies emerging from across Appalachia and the nation that seek to incentivize and stimulate revitalization.  It was piloted in Bellefonte (Centre County) and Kane (McKean County) in 2022 and saw much success with approximately $50,000 invested into community businesses through lodging, stipend spending, and contracted services related to welcoming activities.

Communities hosting remote workers in 2023 include Emporium (Cameron County) and Warren (Warren County), which were selected through a competitive application process that began in the fall of 2022. The application for 2024 host communities will open in fall 2023 at

More information about the program can be found at


On June 27, the Townies Awards were presented, recognizing deserving communities and individuals for the creation and implementation of projects, programs and events that exemplify the goals of PDC’s community revitalization mission. 

One PA Wilds community was honored as part of the awards ceremony.

Pictured, from left: Downtown Lock Haven Inc. Manager Kira Rosamilia and Board President Angela Harding pose for a photo after accepting a 2023 PA Downtown Center Townie Award. Photo provided by PA Downtown Center.

Kira McBriar Rosamilia and Downtown Lock Haven, Inc. were recognized in the new “Promotions & Marketing for a Holiday Event” awards category for Haven Holiday Harmonies 2022. This festive celebration included Rosamilia, who is the manager at Downtown Lock Haven, dressing up as an Elf on a Shelf and appearing in storefronts around town to promote holiday sales, a coordinated lights and music display at Triangle Park, and more.

The award was accepted by Rosamilia, as well as Downtown Lock Haven Board President / Clinton County Commissioner Angela Harding. Harding recognized Rosamilia’s tenacious and ambitious work on behalf of the City and its downtown, and Rosamilia thanked her board and the downtown businesses for their collaborations as well as many community organizations and individuals, including the Lock Haven Area Jaycees, Clinton County Community Foundation, Clinton County Government and Larisha Williamson, Keystone Central School District students, Lock Haven University students, Lock Haven City and City Council, sponsors, and volunteers.  

“Congratulations to Downtown Lock Haven, Inc. on this well deserved award!” said Peters. “Events like this bring community members together and help foster pride in place, and that is something that is special and immeasurable! We couldn’t be more proud to see this PA Wilds community honored during the event.”

Details about Downtown Lock Haven, Inc. can be found at

For more information about the PA Downtown Center or its annual conference, visit


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 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 over 300 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 | Communications Manager
PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, Inc.
[email protected] | 570-948-1051

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