Workshop set on growing nature-based economy

Event open to area’s public, but registration is required

JERSEY SHORE — The outdoor recreation industry, nationwide, generates more than $887 billion in consumer spending annually, according to the Outdoor Industry Association’s 2017 Outdoor Recreation Economy Report.

This equates to 7.6 million jobs and more than $124.5 billion in annual federal and state tax revenue, which makes the outdoor recreation industry among the largest economic sectors in the country, beating out both the pharmaceutical and motor industry combined. Needless to say, it is generating more than just amazing photos. As a result, communities across the country are opening their arms and doors to meet and service outdoor enthusiasts.

So how does Pennsylvania stand in the mix?

While Pennsylvania brings in $29.1 billion in annual, outdoor consumer spending, it represents only 3 percent of the national figure. This is in spite of having nationally recognized trails, such as the Pine Creek Rail Trail, and waterways including the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, named a National Geographic Best Adventure Destination in 2012. However, a work group of like-minded organizations is setting out to change that right in our own backyards.

The Susquehanna Greenway Partnership (SGP) is currently leading this collaborative effort to leverage the natural, cultural, and recreational assets in Clinton and Lycoming counties to spur economic and entrepreneurial development.

SGP took the first steps in this process back in 2015 by setting out to understand the local outdoor recreation industry through conducting community assessments and user intercept surveys in Lock Haven, Jersey Shore and Williamsport. The goal of these surveys was to better understand how residents and visitors were using the parks, trails, and waterways; where they are spending their time and money; and most importantly what is missing from the communities that would increase their economic return.

The results showed there is a need for:

r Guides, outfitters and shuttle services to make it easier and more enjoyable to explore biking, hiking, and water trails.

r More farm-to-table restaurants, microbreweries, and locally produced foods.

r More outdoor recreation, arts and cultural events.

r Outdoor event planners and promoters.

r Assistance with trip planning and trip itineraries.

r Better maps, apps, and signage.

Based on these survey results, a public workshop is being held on “Attracting and Supporting Entrepreneurs to Grow Our Nature-Based Economy” on Wednesday, Nov. 1 at the Wheeland Center. This workshop, which is open to the public, will take a look at the strategies and tactics needed to attract and support entrepreneurs, and promote our regional outdoor assets.

Morning keynote speaker Ann Nemanic, executive director of the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau, will talk about collaborative partnerships to promote recreational tourism along the Great Allegheny Passage trail from Pittsburgh to Washington and how to grow the nature-based economy.

An afternoon panel of speakers will address strategies, structures, and venues to support entrepreneurs who want to start or expand businesses that capitalize the nature-based economy.

Breakout workgroups will focus on promoting the region as a destination for outdoor recreation and the arts, and creating fun and festive trip itineraries.

For more information and to register, go to www.susquehannagreen by Friday. Anyone with an interest in community economic development, outdoor recreation, the arts or local heritage is encouraged to attend.

The workshop is being hosted by the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership and is part of a collaborative initiative that includes Downtown Lock Haven Inc., the Jersey Shore Revitalization Team, Lock Haven University Small Business Development Center, Clinton County Economic Partnership, Williamsport-Lycoming Chamber of Commerce, The Progress Fund, Pennsylvania Downtown Center, PA Wilds Center, and SEDA-Council of Governments. Funding support is provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources and the Appalachian Regional Commission.