The PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship (PA Wilds Center) is encouraging brick-and-mortar businesses that serve the traveling public to apply for the Wilds Cooperative of Pennsylvania (WCO) Signage Mini-Grant program by a newly extended deadline of Dec. 22.
The Wilds Cooperative of Pennsylvania (WCO) is the core business development program of the PA Wilds Center, and it focuses on growing and connecting unique place-based businesses.
The Signage Mini-Grant will provide funding for exterior signage improvements and upgrades to WCO Members.
“Signage is a crucial exterior element of small business facades – attractive, compelling entrances improve the economic prospects of businesses in communities by drawing in new customers,” said Abbi Peters, managing director of the PA Wilds Center.
“Consistent signage that matches the PA Wilds Design Guide and co-brands with the PA Wilds also gives visitors and residents alike a stronger sense of place.
“The Pennsylvania Wilds is a fast growing outdoor recreation, nature and heritage destination, and small businesses can and should take advantage of every opportunity to capture the economic benefits of tourism.”
The total funding awarded for successful applicants will be 50 percent of the project cost, not to exceed $500 per member.
Wilds Cooperative of PA member businesses and non-profits must be brick-and-mortar locations open to the public to be eligible for a Signage Grant, and be located within the 12.5 counties of the Pennsylvania Wilds region – which includes the counties of Warren, McKean, Potter, Tioga, Lycoming, Clinton, Elk, Cameron, Forest, Clearfield, Clarion, Jefferson and northern Centre.
Key candidates for the Wilds Cooperative Signage Grants include members that are B&Bs, unique lodges, campgrounds, visitor centers, galleries, museums, theatres, restaurants, shops, outfitters, guides, professional-level producers/artisans with public-facing studios, craft distilleries, breweries and wineries, retailers and similar venues.
Businesses and non-profits like these that are just learning of The Wilds Cooperative of PA may join the Cooperative and apply for a signage grant at the same time, but program application materials and payment must be received by the time your Signage Grant application is being reviewed for consideration.
WCO membership dues may not be counted toward the 50 percent signage project cost.
The WCO Signage Mini-Grant program was announced as part of a larger regional façade grant initiative administered by the PA Route 6 Alliance and the PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship (PA Wilds Center).
The grant initiative encourages façade improvements and Route 6 and PA Wilds co-branding along the Route 6 corridor in the Pennsylvania Wilds. The grants were made possible thanks to an $183,000 Keystone Communities grant from the state Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), and project support funding from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).
The PA Route 6 and PA Wilds Center Façade Program will provide funding to commercial building owners and business owners (with property owner approval) as well as non-profits, with the restoration of building facades located within Warren, McKean, Potter and Tioga counties. Grants will be awarded at a maximum of $5,000 each with a required 1:1 match, for a total project cost of $10,000.
Eligible types of restoration activities include design assistance, a fresh coat of paint, new signage and repairing or replacing an awning. Façade improvements do not need to be costly, and can make a lasting impact on communities and businesses.
Businesses and non-profits that meet eligibility requirements may submit applications for both the WCO Signage Mini-Grant and the PA Route 6 and PA Wilds Center Façade Program. The deadline to apply for both programs is Dec. 22.
“We’ve seen a lot of nature and heritage tourism investment in the Pennsylvania Wilds in recent years, and it is creating real opportunities for communities to draw visitors in to fuel business and job growth and improve quality of life,” said PA Wilds Center Executive Director Ta Enos.
“To attract visitors – and most other kinds of investment — communities need to appear welcoming. This program helps communities achieve that.”