PA Wilds Center plans annual awards dinner, conference

Time to register, submit nominations for awards

WILLIAMSPORT — The PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, Inc. (PA Wilds Center) is pleased to announce that registration is open for the 2018 PA Wilds Annual Dinner and Awards event to be held on Thursday April 26.

This year also marks the launch of the new Creative Entrepreneur’s Conference, taking place on Friday April 27. These special events are the premier annual networking opportunity in the Pennsylvania Wilds.

The location for the dinner and conference is the Pajama Factory, a rejuvenated, historic factory complex with multiple uses, including a business incubator, space for large events, and work spaces for creative makers. Williamsport is the eastern gateway to the Pennsylvania Wilds, and the region’s largest city.

The theme this year is “Celebrating 15 Years – The Wilds at Work,” to commemorate 15 years of the Pennsylvania Wilds work, region, and mission.

More than 250 businesses and community leaders from across the Pennsylvania Wilds, along with state partners and officials from Harrisburg, will gather for the dinner and conference to get an update on the state and local effort to grow the region’s economy and recognize award winner Champions of the PA Wilds while celebrating the 15-year anniversary of the Pennsylvania Wilds.

The 2018 PA Wilds Annual Dinner & Awards program will spotlight the Champion of the Pennsylvania Wild Awards — given out annually to individuals, groups, organizations, communities and businesses that in the last year have made significant contributions to help grow and sustainably develop the outdoor recreation economy and nature tourism in the Pennsylvania Wilds in a way that creates jobs, diversifies local economies, inspires stewardship and improves quality of life. The region’s 12 county governments, visitor bureaus and many local organizations participate in the effort, along with PA’s Dept. of Conservation & Natural Resources and Dept. of Community & Economic Development. All are encouraged to submit nominations for the PA Wilds Champion Awards; nominations are due March 23 at 5 p.m.

The April 26 dinner & awards will open at 3 p.m. with networking opportunities during a reception of the Creative Makers Exhibit, on display at Gallery Works.

Guest speakers for the dinner will include:

r Eric Bridges, executive director, North Central Pennsylvania Regional Planning and Development Commission, who will share comments on the history and progress of the movement —“The Wilds Are Working: a reflection on the PA Wilds, 15 years in the making.”

r Earl Gohl, federal co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), who will deliver a keynote speech during the PA Wilds Annual Awards dinner. Gohl, who was confirmed by the U.S. Senate for his role at ARC in March 2010, oversees hundreds of ARC investments in community-based projects contributing to the economic growth of the Region – including in the Pennsylvania Wilds. Earl Gohl will be introduced by Sheri R. Collins, Deputy Secretary, Office of Technology & Innovation, PA Department of Community & Economic Development.

The PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, Inc. (PA Wilds Center) received a three-year, $500,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission through the POWER Initiative to assist with nature tourism cluster development in the Pennsylvania Wilds. To date, ARC has invested $94 Million to help coal-impacted communities in 250 Appalachian counties to diversify and grow their economies.

The Creative Entrepreneur’s Conference will begin at 8:30 a.m. Friday April 27. Guests attending both events are encouraged to spend the night in Williamsport. Group hotel rates have been negotiated.

The Creative Entrepreneur’s Conference is a one-day educational conference for entrepreneurs and businesses of all sizes from the Pennsylvania Wilds. Hosted by the Wilds Cooperative (WCO) and the PA Wilds Center, the conference features guest speaker panel sessions on topic areas ranging from how to capitalize on Pennsylvania’s booming outdoor recreation economy, to marketing, wholesaling, and utilizing the PA Wilds Design Guide in your business. Attendees will also learn how to maximize membership in the Wilds Cooperative of Pennsylvania, and network with other regional creative entrepreneurs and business leaders. A luncheon keynote panel will focus on “Demystifying Entrepreneurship.” Conference attendees will also receive a tour of the Pajama Factory.

Said Ta Enos, executive director of the PA Wilds Center, “We are really excited to celebrate 15 years of the Pennsylvania Wilds work with our partners. We have accomplished a tremendous amount together during this time, and we are primed to break new ground with growth goals spanning the next 15 years and beyond. The work has always been about unifying regional stakeholders, working together and partnership. The PA Wilds Annual Dinner & Awards gives us an opportunity to come together in one room to celebrate these achievements, be inspired for what is on the horizon, and to recognize the many diverse participants that help us lead the region’s growth. We are also thrilled to host the first ever Creative Entrepreneur’s Conference; our businesses and creative makers are the backbone of our tourism economy. The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and growing in the region, impacting jobs and real economic growth in our communities. Sharing best practices, working together and learning from each other is what we do best in the Pennsylvania Wilds.”

The Pennsylvania Wilds, one of the state’s 11 official tourism regions, covers about a quarter of the Commonwealth and includes the counties of Warren, McKean, Potter, Tioga, Lycoming, Clinton, Cameron, Elk, Forest, Clarion, Jefferson, Clearfield and the northern part of Centre county.

The region is known for its more than 2 million acres of public land, and also boasts two National Wild & Scenic Rivers, some of the darkest skies in the country and the largest wild elk herd in the Northeast. Visitors spend an estimated $1.7 billion in the region each year, according to the most recent statistics.

To register for the PA Wilds Annual Dinner & Awards and the Creative Entrepreneur’s Conference, please visit:

www.pawildscenter.org/awards-dinner/ and www.pawildscenter.org/conference/

To make a nomination for the PA Wilds Champion Awards, please visit: www.pawildscenter.org/awards-dinner/

For more information on the PA Wilds Center’s programs and services, please visit www.pawildscenter.org.

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The Pennsylvania Wilds region includes the counties of Warren, Forest, Elk, Potter, McKean, Tioga, Clinton, Lycoming, Clearfield, Jefferson, Cameron, Clarion and Northern Centre.

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