KANE – After nearly five years of planning and construction, the PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship has officially opened its PA Wilds Media Lab in Kane.
Located at 61 N. Fraley St., Second Floor, the PA Wilds Media Lab is one of the first brick-and-mortar facilities operated by the PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship (PA Wilds Center), the non-profit charged with coordinating the regional strategy to promote the rural 13-county region and its tremendous public land base as a premier outdoor recreation destination and way to stimulate and help revitalize rural economies.
The PA Wilds Media Lab features tools, technologies and classroom space to support the nonprofit’s expanding entrepreneurial ecosystem and its regional partnership work.
For example, the site includes audio-visual tools and spaces, a product photography room and equipment, workshop space and more.
Artisans, small business owners and organizations who are participating in the Wilds Cooperative of PA, a free network that brings together and uplifts Pennsylvania Wilds stakeholders, will be able to utilize these resources and learn from each other in this space.
“There are a lot of multimedia needs for a growing place-based brand like the PA Wilds. The PA Wilds Center operates a commerce platform, we do a lot of regional marketing and storytelling, and we have hundreds of businesses and organizations that participate in our entrepreneurial ecosystem,” said Ta Enos, founder and chief executive officer at PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship Inc.
“As a virtual organization, most of our staff work from home offices. So we got to a point a few years ago where we realized we really need a program space.
“We needed new tools and technologies to really help us scale the work that we do in the region, and to help small businesses scale alongside us. So with that, the idea for the PA Wilds Media Lab was born.”
The ribbon cutting and grand opening celebrated the partnerships and collaborative efforts that helped the PA Wilds Media Lab open its doors.
Partners from the Office of the Governor of Pennsylvania, PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), PA Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), PA Council on the Arts (PCA), West Penn Power Sustainable Energy Fund (WPPSEF), regional destination marketing organizations, local elected officials and many more traveled to share in the momentous occasion.
In total, more than 70 people gathered for the ribbon cutting ceremony and to explore the space.
Speakers for the ceremony included Enos; Shane Oschman, PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship Board of Directors Secretary/Treasurer; Joel Morrison, WPPSEF Fund Administrator; Brandy Schimp, Mayor of Kane Borough; Karl Blischke, PCA Executive Director; Mandy Book, Deputy Secretary for PA DCED’s Office of Business Financing and Workforce Development; Cindy Dunn, Secretary of PA DCNR; and Abbi Peters Founding COO of the PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship.
“Thank you to Ta and the rest of the PA Wilds Center team for bringing life and light to the Pennsylvania Wilds and adding dimension and depth that this place needs and deserves,” said Dunn.
“Every entrepreneurial step you take, we are following and broadcasting the work you do – not only statewide to our other Conservation Landscapes and other communities, but also nationally and internationally. This is a place that people are watching across the nation and beyond.”
The ribbon cutting ceremony included many of the stakeholders involved in the Wilds work and the PA Wilds Media Lab project. Stephanie Distler of Stephanie Distler Studios cut the ribbon as a longtime Wilds Cooperative member and contributor to the work.
She was flanked by local representatives – including McKean County Commissioners Carol Duffy and Thomas Kreiner, Kane Borough Mayor Brandy Schimp, and Kate Kennedy from the Kane Area Development Center, as well as representatives from DCNR, DCED, WPPSEF, building owners and Wilds Cooperative members Joe and Andrea Lanich from Laughing Owl Press Co., core funders and project contributors, the PA Wilds Center executive team and PA Wilds Center Board of Directors, and other entities involved in the PA Wilds entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Distler, Lisa Conklin Conn of Conklin Studio Pottery, and Julie Mader of Artwork by Julie Mader (all Creative Maker Artisans in the Wilds Cooperative of Pennsylvania and sellers on the PA Wilds Marketplace) agreed to work on product photos during the event, giving visitors the chance to see the photography studio in action.
Makers who crafted and finished furniture and infrastructure for the space, including Joe Feikls of Joe Props Shop and Kevin Murphy of Shindig Alley, were on hand to describe how their artisanry was purchased and installed in the PA Wilds Media Lab and what it meant to them to be part of the project. Rafaelle Colone of Woodrich, Jason Lorenzo of Frog Dog Slabs and Don Luke of DLE Designs also contributed pieces to the Media Lab.
The Media Lab is open by appointment only during normal business hours Monday through Thursday for a nominal fee based on services selected. A reservation system for WCO members using the space is available at WildsCoPA.org/media-lab/.
Although the Media Lab is open, the work will continue to ensure it is an effective space for the area’s entrepreneurs.
“It is truly inspiring to witness the enthusiasm and support shown by everyone present here as we celebrate the opening of a new creative space. While we are excited to open this space to our members, we recognize that it is still a work in progress. Our team remains committed to collaborating with our membership in order to better understand their needs for tools, workshops, and networking opportunities. Over the next few years, we will be engaging in feedback loops to ensure that our members’ voices are heard and that our network grows stronger. We will also be exploring how to leverage the economies of scale that come with 600 members and counting, so that we can offer our members the benefits they need to grow their small businesses and to effectively advocate for their needs,” said Peters, who oversees operations for the PA Wilds Center.
The PA Wilds Media Lab renovations, technology, and exhibits were made possible by financial investments from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), West Penn Power Sustainable Energy Fund (WPPSEF), PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, PA Council on the Arts, Richard King Mellon Foundation, The Collins Companies Foundation, North Central PA Regional Planning and Development Commission, U.S. Economic Development Administration, the Northwest Bank Charitable Foundation, The Conservation Fund, and the building owners, the Laughing Owl Press Co. as well as in-kind donations from Envinity Inc., timber donations through the Allegheny Hardwoods Utilization Group and many volunteer hours donated by creative entrepreneurs and organizations participating in the ecosystem.
Learn more about the PA Wilds Media Lab at WildsCoPA.org/media-lab/.