News for Immediate Release
August 24, 2011
DCNR Secretary: Cameron County Artisan Center Boosts Economy
Artisan Trail Helps Make Pennsylvania Wilds a Tourism Destination
Emporium, Cameron County – Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Richard J. Allan today visited the Cameron County Artisan Center in Emporium, a popular stop on the Pennsylvania Wilds Artisan Trail.
Allan said the center is making a difference to individual businesses and artisans while contributing to the overall momentum of the Pennsylvania Wilds initiative. DCNR has supported the artisan project with Growing Greener grant funding working with the Lumber Heritage Region and other partners.
“This effort seems to be clearly demonstrating the power of a brand that promotes authentic local products, many made with wood and other natural materials, as well as a positive conservation ‘buy local’ message,” Allan said. “The artisan project is becoming increasingly important to the overall Pennsylvania Wilds initiative. The region’s many skilled artisans help give the Pennsylvania Wilds its unique sense of place and make it a destination. Several of our state parks are now showcasing local artisan works and promoting the trail.”
The Pennsylvania Wilds Artisan Development Project was launched in 2006 to raise the visibility and profitability of artisans and arts-related businesses in the region.
The program does this by branding high-quality products made by local artisans with the “Proudly Made in the Pennsylvania Wilds” brand so these products can command a higher price; and by helping to get more of these items to market by establishing an Artisan Trail and an online presence – www.pawildsartisans.com – so artisans can more easily market their products to residents, retailers, visitors, design professionals and others.
In its first two years, the program had an estimated overall economic impact of $100,000, according to a recent study conducted as part of the Community and Economic Development Master’s program through Penn State University. The program led to a 23 percent increase in Pennsylvania Wilds Artisans selling their products through retail trail sites across the 12 ½-county region. Commissions paid to artisans increased almost 30 percent from 2008 to 2009.
“These are great results for an effort that was just getting off the ground in the middle of one of the worst recessions in history,” said Bob Veilleux, who oversaw the study. “We expect that these figures have only increased over the last two years.”
The study also looked at the importance and economic power of the Pennsylvania Wilds brand – a key aspect of the artisan project and of the larger effort to grow sustainable tourism in the region. The study showed that artisan products branded with the Pennsylvania Wilds logo were considered higher quality by customers and more likely to be purchased than products without the branding.
The Cameron County Artisan Center is a testament to the program’s momentum. The center opened in 2008 in large part because of the marketing, networking and branding opportunities offered through the Pennsylvania Wilds Artisan Trail.
In order to have Cameron County represented on the trail, the local chamber transformed a vacant storefront in downtown Emporium into a chamber office and artisan center. In three short years, the center has gone from carrying 10 artists to carrying more than 80, and has sold more than $60,000 in artwork.
It also now offers art classes – a needed service in the community that has created additional work opportunities for local artisans.
“This is a fantastic success story in a county that has only 5,200 people,” said Pennsylvania Wilds Small Business Ombudsman Ta Brant, who helps oversee the artisan project. “The chamber’s executive director has done an amazing job and has been very generous with her time. She is the person all our new trail sites go to for advice.”
While in Emporium, Allan also heard about efforts by community groups to revitalize the area by developing and promoting outdoor recreation assets like trails and geocaching. Chamber Director Tina Johns Solak works with a variety of community organizations to develop these opportunities so local businesses reap the benefits.
“By providing grants to support the work of the Pennsylvania Wilds Planning Team, DCNR is pleased to have created opportunities for Emporium and other communities in the region to take advantage of the initiative,” Allan said. “DCNR’s support to the Planning Team has led to on-the-ground resources for communities and businesses like design assistance and signage grants, trail workshops, the Pennsylvania Wilds Resource Center website and a variety of locally-driven recreation and conservation projects that not only contribute to sustainable tourism, but also improve quality of life.”
Media contact: Christina Novak, 717-772-9101