Businesses compete for tourism - Titusville Herald: News

Businesses compete for tourism

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Posted: Wednesday, February 27, 2019 5:00 am

Local businesses are trying to harness the same trails and waterways which acted as the infrastructure for industry in the past as pathways to the future, with the help of the Oil Region Alliance (ORA).

Oil Region Alliance launched the 2019 Business Contest with a kick-off event at TrAils to Ales Brewery in Franklin Tuesday night.

The contest asks businesses to submit concept plans and, eventually, full business plans for a new entrepreneurial enterprise, whether it is an addition to a current business or a new and unestablished start up, which will, in some way, support people who are using any of the trails in the area, including bike trails, hiking trails and waterways.

Any for-profit business in Venango County, the eastern corner of Crawford County and some of Armstrong County is eligible to submit a concept plan. Finalists will be selected in April. Those five finalists will submit full business plans that aim to encourage recreation.

“We are hoping to encourage the business owners to provide more for recreation in the area, for the tourists as well as for the locals,” said Kim Harris, ORA Project Manager.

John Phillips, ORA president, said that he desires for this contest will be an incentive to get business owners to move forward on ideas to help the region, even if that business doesn’t win.

The prize money sits at $5,000 for the winner, with $2,000 and $1,000 for the runner up and third place, respectively. This money is given to the company as reimbursements so that they are able to begin to put their winning plan into action.

Initially, this contest, which happens almost annually, was funded by some seed money granted through the state. Now, according to Emily Altomare, ORA communications and tourism manager, the money comes from Venango County Act 13 funds designated by county commissioners.

“Our county commissioners had the foresight to say, ‘This is valuable. We want to keep this going,’” Phillips said.

Two Venango County commissioners, Chip Abramovic and Vincent Witherup, both attended the kick-off event. According to Abramovic, tourism is a growing industry in the area that can stimulate economic growth in the oil region.

“Our trails keep us active,” Abramovic said. “Our trails give us the quality of life that other areas wish they had.”

Abramovic said that tourism is one tool that the Oil Region will be left behind without.

Recent studies have agreed with that sentiment, according to Phillips. Although the Oil Region’s trails costed about $20 million to establish and cost about $50,000 annually to maintain, they stimulate the economy. According to Phillips, a 2016 study said that about 180,000 people use the trails every year, and which has about a $7 million economic impact on the area. According to Harris, this is up from $4 million in 2006.

“Roughly, in 2016, all outdoor recreation in Pennsylvania provided more jobs than the production of all durable goods,” Philips said, citing the 2016 survey.

This generates $17 billion in salary and wages and over $300 million in taxes from water sports, trail sports, camping and snow sports, among others.

The keynote speaker for the kickoff was one regional businesswoman who runs a recreational outdoor business out of Warren.

Piper VanOrd, who operates Allegheny Outfitters, shared the history of the company which started as a livery service renting kayaks and canoes to tourists and people wanting to explore the area.

VanOrd shared a number of innovations her company has made to expand it from around 2,000 people to more than five times that many in recent years. They have frequently restyled their website, published tour guide books, partnered with other businesses and schools and taken women’s trips on the river.

The company has joined forces with many businesses in the Warren area to clean up the Allegheny River every year. So far they have removed 100,000 pounds of metal alone.

While sharing some of the ways that they have kept afloat during the hard times and prosperous during the good times, Piper told other business owners gathered what she learned along the way.

“It’s a constant work in progress, everything we do,” VanOrd said.

VanOrd said she discovered as she was developing a guide book for tourists traveling down the river that what benefitted the region would benefit her business, too.

“It wasn’t just about us,” she said. “It was about letting people know what’s in our little tiny towns along the way.”

The event was held at TrAils to Ales Brewery partially because the business was a previous grand prize winner. In 2017, the fledgling company won on its proposition to put in televisions which would display pictures and videos from customers of the treasures in the area.

“That is a focal point of our brewery,” said David Ballard, one of the owners. “One of the things we would like to do is encourage the people we have in to enjoy what we have.”

According to Ballard, the company gets a lot of people in from outside of Franklin and outside the area that come because they are kayaking or biking. The prize money of $5,000 purchased four televisions and a sound system for the company, which was only just getting off the ground in 2017.

Anyone interested in entering the contest has until 4:30 p.m. on April 4 to email, mail or hand deliver a concept plan to the ORA. More information about what a concept plan is, resources to help business owners develop one and contact information to enter the contest can be found at oragot.com

Anyone with questions can contact Harris, by email, at kharris@oilregion.org, or by phone, at (814) 677-3152.

Brown can be reached, by email, at tbrown@titusvilleherald.com.

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Welcome to the discussion.

1 comment:

  • Jahoba posted at 7:45 am on Thu, Feb 28, 2019.

    Jahoba Posts: 135

    Piper VanOrd. Meow.

     

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