Businesses in Elk County should take note of a grant program offered through the PA Wilds Planning Team. The team is now accepting applications for its Business Signage Grant Program.
Now in its second year, the program is designed to help small businesses in the 12-county Wilds region improve the look of their storefronts, providing "curb appeal" that enhances the overall look of their communities and attracts customers.
This is the second year for the program. PA Wilds Small Business Ombudsman Ta Brant said several Elk County businesses were awarded signs last year: Wapiti Woods; Grants Pass Antiques & Wrought Iron; Summit Lodge & Grill; and Old Charm Bed & Breakfast. Additionally, new signs welcoming visitors to the region went up in St. Marys, Benezette, Johnsonburg and Wilcox.
"Elk County had some very strong applications last year, and the new signs look great," Brant said.
Elk County resident and PA Wilds Planning Team Chair Matt Quesenberry said the program gives businesses a leg up while providing a sense of cohesiveness.
"With a business, it helps provide them a way to stretch their dollar for them to make the improvements to their building. What we're trying to do here is provide some way to unify the communities in the region, and having something as simple as signage with the Pennsylvania Wilds logo is just a great way to do that," Quesenberry said.
"It's not just a beacon for visitors, but it also helps provide us with a way to better understand the economic opportunities that the Pennsylvania Wilds can provide. Mostly, it helps us form an identity."
The PA Wilds Planning Team hopes to make community welcome signage grants available again this year, but for now they are offering the program for business signage.
"This is a great way for businesses to tie into the PA Wilds effort while improving their visibility and the look of their town," Brant said. "What we've found is a small thing like a new sign can make a big difference -- it can improve a business' bottom line, instill pride in visitors and residents and trigger other investments in a community or business. When the PA Wilds logo is used, the signs also help us brand and market the region. The program works on a lot of levels."
Up to $1,500 for each grant is available through a competitive process, with a dollar-for-dollar match required. The deadline to apply is April 15. Guidelines and the grant application are available on the homepage of www.pawildsresources.org .
The Design Guide may be downloaded or http://www.pawildsresources.org/design_guide.html . For additional questions about the program or application, contact Val Shelley, local project coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org  or 814-486-0213.
The PA Wilds region encompasses Cameron, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, Lycoming, McKean, Potter, Tioga and Warren counties.