Celebrating our Partners
June is Great Outdoors Month. We thought what better way to celebrate than to pull back the curtain and show our fans and followers the incredible partners who are helping us establish the PA Wilds as a sustainable outdoor recreation destination that helps rural businesses and communities thrive.
The 13-county PA Wilds region is home to the greatest concentration of public lands in the Commonwealth. Our region has been working to grow its outdoor rec economy for close to 20 years, with results that include a 46 percent increase in tourism industry spending between 2009 and 2019 (from $1.27B annually to $1.85B, according to Tourism Economics reports), many small business startups and expansions, increased pride of place, and greater stewardship – all in the most rural part of the state where we are working to recover from years of population decline and economic distress.
Our holistic approach has included side-by-side investments in recreation infrastructure, regional planning, community character and natural resource stewardship, small business development and entrepreneurship, and regional marketing and branding.
The PA Wilds is the only outdoor rec industry cluster to make it to the final round of the nationwide Build Back Better Regional Challenge (BBBRC) competition, where our highly rural region is now competing against major cities and other industry clusters for $50M in transformative investment from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. We are so proud of the sustainable models we’ve developed to activate public lands and build rooted local wealth in rural communities, and excited about where we could go next.
Growing this industry is not work for one organization, or even a few. In our landscape, which is about the size of Massachusetts, it’s a regional strategy involving, literally, hundreds of nonprofit organizations, local, state and federal government, and local businesses. Its rural entrepreneurs, public lands managers, foundations, tourism and heritage professionals, game and fish commissions, county planners and elected officials, business service providers, conservation organizations and economic developers.
Many of us are formally tied together through an Intergovernmental Cooperation Agreement, or through projects we are jointly working on, or referral networks, or through the Wilds Cooperative value chain, or around anchor attractions. This month, we celebrate these partners and their many contributions to this generational work!
About the Series:
To celebrate June being Great Outdoors Month, we are highlighting partners each day who are helping grow the outdoor recreation economy here in the PA Wilds to help revitalize rural communities. Our 13-county region is the only outdoor rec industry cluster to make it to the final round of the national Build Back Better Regional Challenge competition, where we are now competing for $50M in federal investment from the US Economic Development Administration. We couldn’t have made it this far without our incredible partners!
Learn more about the PA Wilds and the BBBRC competition here.
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