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PA outdoor leader stops in Scranton to visit with two local outdoor businesses

At the Scranton Running Company and Cedar Bicycle, Pennsylvania’s Director of Outdoor Recreation wondered what makes the outdoor businesses successful.

In his role, Director Nathan Reigner, Ph.D., wants to tend and foster outdoor businesses, much like other big industries like agriculture.

“I don't think we have elevated what the outdoors can do for us with the seriousness that it deserves," he said during his first stop at the Scranton Running Company. "I don't think we treat it as a sector of our economy.”

Reigner spoke earlier in the week at the Pocono Forests and Waters Conservation Landscape Annual Stakeholder meeting in Scranton. He pointed to PA’s economy in 2021. Outdoor recreation attributed 1.6% — or $13.6 billion — to the economy that year. Of that $13.6 billion, retail trade made up 28.1%.

To assist with the mission of growing outdoor recreation economy, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, along with other state agencies, are also developing an Office of Outdoor Recreation.

By visiting the two shops in Scranton, Reigner aimed to better understand the role of business in growing outdoor recreation.

Matt Byrne, owner of the Scranton Running Company, started the business not only because of his passion for running but also to help people find that same enthusiasm. He told Reigner his guiding principle is empathy.

“If we're not listening and putting yourself in their shoes and then being active about it, what are you doing?” he said.

His business grew to support events throughout the region.

While standing in between clothing racks at the Olive Street shop, Reigner asked if the running company's economic contribution to Scranton and the community is appreciated.

Byrne said what matters to him is the people who come into the shop and are appreciative. But he pointed to the amount of people who sign up for their events, like Shiver by River.

"We get 300 people, sometimes 400 people for a little local 5k, 10k, which we don't even hardly advertise," Byrne said.

Reigner asked how he, from a centralized administrative position, could create conditions to empower outdoor business owners like Byrne.

Byrne said the fact that he visited his shop was a start.

While in Scranton on Friday, March 3, Reigner also announced a series of statewide stakeholder meetings on efforts to unite, grow, and strengthen Pennsylvania’s outdoor economy.

The stakeholder meetings begin on March 29 in York County and conclude on April 27 in Erie.

Locally, stakeholder meetings with be held on April 6 at the Nurture Nature Center in Easton; April 12 at Lycoming College in Williamsport; and April 13 at Montage Mountain.

Kat Bolus is the community reporter for the newly-formed WVIA News Team. She is a former reporter and columnist at The Times-Tribune, a Scrantonian and cat mom.
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