Penn State helps connect Pennsylvania Wilds region

July 11, 2008

Goal is to attract more visitors and boost region’s economic development

University Park, Pa. -- More businesses and organizations in the Pennsylvania Wilds -- a region in northcentral Pennsylvania teeming with elk and other wildlife -- will gain exposure to potential visitors across the world with high-speed Internet, thanks to the Pennsylvania Technical Assistance Program (PennTAP), part of Penn State Outreach's Office of Economic and Workforce Development.

PennTAP, which provides technical assistance to small and medium-sized businesses throughout Pennsylvania, has started an initiative to promote the advantages, use and procurement of broadband services for schools, health care facilities, businesses, government organizations and residents throughout the Pennsylvania Wilds region. Currently, for example, less than half of the 150 places to stay in the Wilds have broadband access and offer Internet connectivity to tourists. The initiative aims to draw more tourists to the 12-county region, which sees about 1 million visitors annually.

"We would like visitors to stay overnight and take advantage of what we have," said Elise Roberts of the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors Visitors Bureau. "If you’re not on the Internet, you’re losing business."

Wayne Figurelle, director of PennTAP, explained: "The public lands within the Wilds represent a potential for economic gain for local communities, many of which have struggled to thrive since railroading, oil and other industries have disappeared. To develop this region into a nationally recognized destination site, full broadband infrastructure and access needs to be developed in order to support the travel and tourism industry. This needs to address not just where to stay, but the businesses, municipal governments and schools throughout the region."

The Wilds region includes more than 1.6 million acres of state forest and game lands, 27 state parks, and hundreds of miles of backpacking trails, bike paths and trout fishing streams. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is developing a strategy to encourage the growth of tourism in the region, while protecting these natural resources.

In addition to conducting regional broadband awareness and training events, "PennTAP will provide technical solutions to businesses and organizations that exploit the vast advantages of broadband," said Figurelle. The project is being funded with a new $200,000 grant from the Broadband Outreach and Aggregation Fund of Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development.

The Pennsylvania Technical Assistance Program (PennTAP) engages, guides and empowers businesses and organizations throughout the Commonwealth and beyond by providing objective and experience-based technical and workforce solutions that enable clients to succeed and thrive -- stimulating economic growth for Pennsylvania. Recently, PennTAP reported more than 1,000 jobs created or retained and $52 million in economic benefits as a result of help in 2007. For more information, visit online. PennTAP is part of the Office of Economic and Workforce Development in Penn State Outreach, the largest unified outreach organization in American higher education.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated March 19, 2009