After a successful pilot program in 2022 for The Wilds Are Working: A Remote Lifestyle Experience, remote workers will have the chance to apply to test out living in two new communities for 2023.

Those communities will be Emporium and Warren.

Funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission through Ben Franklin Technology Partners and administered by the PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, Inc., This project seeks to help address the issue of outmigration in rural areas by marketing PA Wilds communities as great places to live and work.

The initiative allows remote workers to live, work, volunteer and explore all that the rural region has to offer. Participants could come from anywhere in the world, as long as they have a sense of adventure and the ability to work remotely.

Applications open on March 15 and are due by May 3.

Emporium, the county seat of Cameron County, is geographically centered in the “heart of the PA Wilds” and situated between the region’s Elk Country and Dark Skies landscapes. With just under 2,000 residents, this is a small but thriving town. In Emporium, locally owned shops and restaurants fill the tree-lined Main Street. The town’s historical church district includes stained glass windows from the 1800s, showing its beautiful history.

Bring your bike and enjoy the rails to trails, which cut through the center of town and offer a peaceful retreat. Participants selected for Emporium will spend July in the community, which means they will be able to enjoy Independence Day events, summer farmers markets and other gatherings.

Warren, the county seat of Warren County, is located in the northwestern corner of the PA Wilds. With a population of more than 9,000 residents, Warren is one of the larger communities in the PA Wilds, while still holding onto its small-town charm.

The wild and scenic Allegheny River runs through Warren, offering the ability to kayak, fish or take a stroll along the river. Situated in the Allegheny National Forest & Surrounds landscape of the PA Wilds, Warren is a perfect location for avid hikers, and mountain bikers will enjoy the trails at Jakes Rocks. Participants selected for Warren will spend August there, giving them the chance to enjoy late summer weather.

“We’re thrilled to be able to offer this program in Warren and Emporium for 2023,” said Abbi Peters, chief operations officer at the PA Wilds Center. “This is an opportunity for tech and innovation workers who have the flexibility to ‘work from anywhere’ to explore the PA Wilds and find a community that provides a great quality of life. It’s also an opportunity for our region’s communities to look inward at all their great assets to ensure they’re properly positioned for the modern worker and traveler. We believe Warren and Emporium will each offer a very unique experience for the 2023 program.”

Lodging is provided for remote workers during the experienceand they receive a stipend which can only be spent at local businesses to inject more dollars locally into the region throughout the initiative. The stipends are provided in the form of a digital gift card (Shop the PA Wilds gift card), only redeemable at participating businesses within the Wilds region.

Five participants will be accepted for each community, and they will be notified by May 15.

Applicants have the ability to bring their partners, families and even pets, if applicable. During the application process, individuals are expected to share information about their employment status, what makes them a good fit for the program, interests and hobbies, and a brief introduction video for the committee’s review.

Each community has a Community Lead Organization spearheading the effort at the ground level. Warren County Chamber of Business & Industry is the CLO for Warren, and the Cameron County Chamber of Commerce & Artisan Center is the CLO for Emporium. As administrators in the respective communities, the CLOs are responsible for reviewing applications, making selections and coordinating arrangements for the remote workers.

“While the participants are living in these communities for those four weeks, we want them to be able to get out and truly experience the PA Wilds. For some, that might mean visiting an outfitter and paddling on the Allegheny River. Others might enjoy a daily cup of coffee at a newfound favorite cafe. The funds provided to them in the form of a digital gift card will help them identify and make these opportunities a reality, all the while also infusing dollars into communities and small businesses throughout the PA Wilds,” said Peters. “Programs like The Wilds Are Working: A Remote Lifestyle Experience have had remarkable success across Appalachia and in other rural communities across the country. We see this as a great opportunity to connect community-focused individuals with towns in the Pennsylvania Wilds.”

A final component of this initiative is a placemaking effort called “Picture Yourself Here.” This project enables the participating communities to choose whether to install inspirational window wraps in downtown storefronts or produce a marketing video to help people picture themselves there.

The plan is for two more communities to host remote workers in 2024.

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