May/June Around South Mountain Introduction

Are you making the most of this stellar landscape and harvest? Local berry season is upon us – see the fruit ripening chart – and buying fruit local and in season is one of the most meaningful ways that you can support local growers and increase the nutritional density of your own diet. Our local growers are producing delicious and nutritious produce in beautiful rural landscapes while often keeping the land from conversion to housing or warehouses and transportation/logistics infrastructure. Each of us have a unique role to play in protecting and promoting the landscape that is our home. 

There are loads of you out there who are showing up for your communities – thank you! We highlighted several of these initiatives at our Spring Partnership Meeting held in May at Gifford Pinchot State Park: York County Economic Alliance, York County’s Open Space and Land Preservation Grant Program, Dillsburg Heart & Soul Project, and the Watershed Alliance of York 

One of the biggest take-aways from the meeting was that Pennsylvania’s Outdoor Recreation economy is just getting started and is already worth $29 billion – sixth in the nation – and supports more than three times as many jobs (250,000) as the natural gas industry (72,000). Further, the outdoor recreation employment sector is larger than many other major industries in Pennsylvania, with more jobs than sectors such as architecture and engineering, trucking, or food and beverage manufacturing industries (PA Downtown Center). There is still a lot more room to grow this industry, as Pennsylvania is just starting to invest in this important and growing segment of the economy!  

To hit this point home, our friends at York County Economic Alliance shared this 2021 survey summary “to better understand economic development professional’s statewide engagement with the outdoor economy and to also inform ongoing state-level discussions about the best way for state agencies and other entities to leverage and promote the outdoor economy, in part by considering how the traditional economic development community engages—or fails to engage—with the outdoor economy as a meaningful part of its work.” I’ve included the top takeaways and actions that you, SMP, and SMP Friends and Partners can take to support economic development professionals (italic font). 

Most economic development professionals surveyed:  

  • are engaged with conservation and environmental groups in their region but lack strong relationships.  SMP supporters should build strong relationships with their local development professionals and serve as advisors. 
  • work in organizations with strategic goals related to the outdoor economy but lack mission statements or specific tactics to achieve them.  SMP and our Partners and Friends should be invited to the table to help develop these mission statements and specific tactics. There is opportunity for tactics to be undertaken together. 
  • see the outdoors as a major part of their region’s talent attraction strategy, which positions the outdoor economy as part of crucial workforce development efforts.  SMP and our Partners are prominent economic development partners who protect, create, and promote much of the region’s talent attraction and retention infrastructure. 

See all of the key findings and details here. 

The survey summary above presents an opportunity to help county economic development professionals to build-out local outdoor economies in their strategic plans and investments. This is a great opportunity to show up and support a more sustainable form of economic development that is based on our natural and unique assets here in the South Mountain region. We all call this landscape home and many of us can pitch in and help take advantage of this opportunity. If you want to discuss this opportunity with your local economic development organization, email me and I am happy to make an introduction! 

My Best,