The chief executive officer of the PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship (PA Wilds Center) has been selected for a national cohort for leaders “at the cutting edge of rural community development,” officials announced recently.
Tataboline Enos of Warren County was nominated for the cohort by an associate director at the Aspen Institute’s Community Strategies Group.
The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization, and the Community Strategies Group focuses heavily on studying rural issues.
A total of 138 individuals were nominated by organizations nationwide, and 30 were selected for the opportunity through a multi-review process.
The year-long cohort, called Field Trips to the Future, is sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the country’s largest philanthropy.
The program seeks to infuse and strengthen the influence of future-oriented thinking with those working to ensure that rural communities and Native nations across the rural United States are healthy places where everyone belongs, lives with dignity and thrives.
The foundation launched the cohort as a way to invest in rural changemakers and lift up rural voices. Being selected for the cohort comes with a $12,000 award — half of which is given to the awardee’s organization and the other half to the winner for their professional development.
The PA Wilds Center is the lead non-profit for the regional strategy to establish the 13-county PA Wilds region as an outdoor recreation destination to help diversify local economies, attract new investment, improve quality of life, inspire stewardship and attract and retain the region’s working-age population.
Enos founded the non-profit in 2013 after working with rural entrepreneurs for five years as the PA Wilds Small Business Ombudsman and seeing first-hand the difference the PA Wilds work was making in the region’s rural communities.
In 2014, Enos stepped down from the Board of Directors to become the non-profit’s first CEO. In a few short years, she built a team that is creating models for asset-based rural development that are recognized nationally.
The center has helped transition the PA Wilds effort from state-led to locally-led and is advancing programs that support rural communities building rooted local wealth through entrepreneurship. The Center’s work has been featured in five national studies in the last two years.
“Tourism is a $1.85B annual industry in the PA Wilds,” says PA Wilds Center Board Chair Kate Brock. “It makes up about 11 percent of our region’s economy.
“Over the last decade, every county in the region has seen double digit growth in visitor spending, supporting many small business start-ups and expansions.
“An economic force in its own right, this industry is also critical to helping major employers in our region attract and retain talent as it advances amenities that are important to rural quality of life.
“Many hands have helped get the PA Wilds work to where it is today, but Ta is one of its pioneers. We on the Board are thrilled to see her recognized for her leadership.”
Participants in the cohort will meet virtually once a month, completing a variety of virtual learning and collaborative exercises, such as learning about models for building a better future, peer networking focused on problem-solving and ideation and presenting on emerging trends.
“I’m honored to be selected for this inaugural cohort,” Enos says. “Rural development comes with a lot of challenges.
“Being part of a national peer group like this will help us connect with new tools and approaches that are working in other rural landscapes.
“I know the lessons gleaned will have long-term impacts for our programs and the communities we serve.”
Enos said her cohort met for the first time last week, and she and other participants were really blown away by the generous monetary award that goes with the program.
“Philanthropic resources by large foundations have historically been disproportionately low in rural areas, including the PA Wilds region,” Enos says. “But that trend is changing.
“This commitment by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is an example of that. The Richard King Mellon Foundation is another major foundation we know of that is doing significant work in rural PA, including investing directly in our programs and partner organizations here in the PA Wilds. It is great to see these opportunities happening for rural areas.”