September 1, 2015
The Susquehanna Greenway Partnership and the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Lock Haven University (LHU) are co-leading an initiative to help support entrepreneurs who want to start new businesses or expand their current business as part of a nature-based place-making initiative.
According to Trish Carothers, SGP Executive Director, this project will focus on three communities -- Lock Haven, Jersey Shore and Williamsport -- that are connected by the Susquehanna Greenway. To identify what residents and visitors like about these towns, what additional improvements they would like to see, and how much they are spending on recreational and cultural related activities, SGP and SBDC are conducting user surveys and community assessments.
“We need to know what impact these trails, parks, accesses, and cultural assets are having,” said Carothers. “What is the return on investment, how many jobs are supported? This project will establish a benchmark and over the years we will periodically reassess the impact.”
Three LHU students in the Recreation Management and Business programs are helping to conduct the user surveys by intercepting people on the trails, boat accesses, riverfront parks, downtowns, and at events to ask them to complete the survey. Those that take the survey are given the option to enter a drawing to win prizes that have been donated by local businesses. Prizes include a bike from Bike Gallery in Lock Haven, a picnic basket from Woolrich, a kayak from Country Ski & Sports in Montoursville, and a framed print of Phelps Chapel by Steve Getz of the Station Gallery in Lock Haven, with framing donated by the Susquehanna Gallery and Frame Shoppe in Jersey Shore. Surveys are also being distributed at visitor centers, and some hotels and restaurants. The survey can be completed online by September 15, 2015 or by visiting the Susquehanna Greenway Facebook Page.
The community assessments are being led by experts from The Progress Fund who have conducted similar assessment in over 15 towns along the Great Allegheny Passage and Erie to Pittsburgh trail that is in development. These assessments bring together a group of community stakeholders and visitors to walk the towns, viewing them as a visitor, perhaps someone visiting from California or Baltimore. The assessment asks a variety of questions, including: How would a visitor see your town? Would they find good places downtown to eat, stay and shop?
The results of these surveys will be compiled and analyzed to help identify the unmet needs of residents and visitors, and to develop strategies to help support entrepreneurs that want to start or expand businesses to meet these needs.
In addition to SGP, SBDC and LHU, participating partners include, Downtown Lock Haven, Jersey Shore Revitalization Team, City of Williamsport, Clinton County Economic Partnership and Visitors Bureau, Williamsport-Lycoming Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau, SEDA-Council of Governments, PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and the Appalachian Regional Commission. The partners will work together to draft an action plan.