Lots spent on outdoor recreation

LOCK HAVEN — Across the country, the outdoor recreation economy is booming, generating $887 billion in consumer spending annually, according to the Outdoor Industry Association’s 2017 Outdoor Recreation Economy Report.

This equates 7.6 million jobs and over $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.

To tap into this national trend and help grow the nature based economy in this region, the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership (SGP) is teaming up with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Lock Haven University to conduct a workshop the evening of Wednesday, Dec. 6, on starting a nature-based business.

“We have tremendous outdoor recreation assets here in Clinton and Lycoming counties, including the Pine Creek Rail Trail, the West Branch Susquehanna River Water Trail, the River Walks in Williamsport and Lock Haven, the Lycoming Creek Bikeway, our state parks and gamelands,” said Gail Kulp, executive director of the SGP. “These assets are the foundation, but entrepreneurs are needed to run nature-based businesses, they are the building blocks of this nature based economy.”

In 2015, SGP and community partners conducted community assessments and user intercept surveys in Lock Haven, Jersey Shore and Williamsport. These surveys sought to determine what is needed to improve and grow the outdoor recreation economy in our region. Results showed that there is a need for:

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

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

• More outdoor recreation, arts and cultural events.

• Outdoor event planners and promoters.

• Assistance with trip planning and trip itineraries.

• Better maps, apps, and signage.

“There is a clear need for entrepreneurs to run nature-based businesses that can service the outdoor enthusiasts who want to hike, bike, paddle, fish and hunt,” said Kulp. “We also recognize that entrepreneurs need support to get started, which is why we are working with the SBDC to put on this workshop. At the workshop a panel of entrepreneurs will address what it takes to run a successful business. Panelists include the owners of Tussey Mountain Outfitters, Organic Climbing, and Tom Svec Furniture Design.

“A panel of lenders will also be available to discuss how to finance your business and loan programs available to small businesses. Representatives from tourism promotion agencies, chambers of commerce and nonprofit association will also be available to discuss how they can help promote your business.”

The workshop starts at 5:30 p.m., is open to the public and will be held at Small Business Development Center in the East Campus (old high school) of Lock Haven University at 301 Church St. Registration is $15 and includes educational materials, dinner, and the opportunity to discuss business ideas with other entrepreneurs, lenders, and the SBDC staff.

Registration closes on Nov. 29. To register, go to www.susquehannagreenway.org/nature.

The workshop 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, the Appalachian Regional Commission and Woodlands Bank.