Bellefonte to pilot program hosting remote workers as part of Pennsylvania Wilds initiative
Bellefonte is one of two communities piloting a new remote work program called the Wilds Are Working: Recreation and Technology in Rural PA with the PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship. Funded by Ben Franklin Technology Partners through the Appalachian Regional Commission, this project serves to address the issue of outmigration in rural areas and market PA Wilds communities as great places for remote workers to live and work. Bellefonte is considered to be part of the “welcome mat” into the Pennsylvania Wilds, in its I-80 Frontier Landscape.
In recent years, Bellefonte has seen exponential growth as new businesses emerge within and around the downtown. Downtown Bellefonte Inc. serves as a catalyst of this development while addressing current and future community needs. The non-profit organization, part of the National Main Street program, continuously looks for ways to engage the community and businesses to create a great place to live, work, and do business.
To foster the growth of the town’s entrepreneurial mindset, Bellefonte SpringBoard, a downtown coworking space, aims to provide resources such as low-cost desk space, workshops, photography and videography studio rentals, and more, to entrepreneurs and remote workers.
“SpringBoard has become home to many new companies, creating an energetic buzz that is refreshing,” said Jennilyn Schuster, Main Street Manager for Downtown Bellefonte Inc. “We are excited to welcome new talent to this creative hub that fosters innovation while creating a tight-knit network of entrepreneurs.”
The PA Wilds organization and the 2022 Wilds Are Working campaign support Downtown Bellefonte Inc.’s mission to realize economic vitality and revitalize the historic downtown.
“Downtown Bellefonte Inc. is thrilled to be able to be a pilot community in this endeavor, and to help to shape an initiative that not only could be transformative for the Bellefonte community, but for the entire PA Wilds region,” said Ellen Matis, Board President of Downtown Bellefonte Inc.
As one of two communities participating in the pilot, Bellefonte is preparing to welcome remote workers and showcase its vibrant downtown, local attractions, and access to outdoor recreation and activities. The PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship plans to present Bellefonte’s experience as an example for the expansion of the program to other rural communities in the future.
Stephen Brawley, President/CEO of Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern Pennsylvania and a board member for Downtown Bellefonte Inc., commented, “As a long-time resident of the Bellefonte community, it’s exciting to see this initiative in place that will show off what our region offers to new residents and those who work remotely.”
Especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a significant rise in the popularity of flexible and permanent “work-from-home” and remote work options by employers. As part of the initiative, dollars will be injected into the Bellefonte economy in the form of stipends for selected workers to use at Bellefonte restaurants, craft beverage producers, retail stores, and others. Long-term housing for these individuals is also funded through the initiative.
“Remote work is no longer the future — it is now,” Matis said. “As a remote-based business owner myself, I know well that Bellefonte is uniquely positioned to attract and cater to creative and tech remote workers.”
Matis’ marketing agency, Hello Social Co. — which considers Bellefonte to be its headquarters but serves clients nationwide — is serving as the strategic project management agency on the initiative with The PA Wilds Center. Bellefonte-based website and graphic design agency 3twenty9 Design is also a part of the campaign.
Ultimately, this project aims to position Bellefonte — and the entire Pennsylvania Wilds region — as a location that remote workers would like to move to and continue working in. If workers do not choose to relocate permanently, PA Wilds will continue to support participating communities with their marketing efforts, economic development and revitalization goals. The Wilds Are Working campaign will also provide Bellefonte with “Picture Yourself in the PA Wilds” window wraps that will be placed in underutilized buildings. This part of the project serves as a marketing tool to showcase the town’s recreational assets and local entrepreneurs.
Applications for the Wilds Are Working remote work opportunity in Bellefonte will open in early April.
Downtown Bellefonte Inc. (DBI) is a Community Partner member of the Wilds Cooperative of PA. View DBI’s profile, and leave a review or recommendation, here.
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