RIDGWAY – The North Central Pennsylvania Regional Planning and Development Commission (North Central) recently played an integral role in helping one Elk County tourism business secure a loan that will benefit the tourism sector in the region.

North Central assisted Wapiti Woods Lodge LLC capture a 15-year, $200,000 loan at a 4-percent reset interest rate through the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority (PIDA). North Central is a certified economic development organization for the state-run loan program.

“This loan will help bolster the regional economy by bringing people to Elk County,” North Central Executive Director Jim Chorney said. “Tourism is a big part of the region throughout the entire six-county region we serve and there will be benefits for years to come.”

The North Central Regional Planning and Development Commission recently assisted Wapiti Woods LLC secure a low-interest loan through the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority.

Wapiti Woods LLC will use the funding to construct a new lodge and make site improvements. The new lodge will be able to address demand for accommodating larger groups. The lodge is planned to be a four-bedroom facility that will sleep eight adults and features 2 ½ bathrooms, a full kitchen, laundry facilities, indoor and outdoor fireplaces, and outdoor seating. Currently, Wapiti Woods has 10 cabins that can sleep two to six people.

The total project cost is estimated at $431,950 and the lodge is anticipated to receive its first guests on April 1, 2025. Since opening in 2003, the tourist spot tucked in the southeastern corner of Elk County has attracted guests from 15 countries and 45 states.

Wapiti Woods LLC owners Steve and Coleen Kronenwetter have watched their dream turn into reality over the past two decades and North Central has been instrumental in the growth of their business from conceptualization to securing the PIDA loan.

The Kronenwetters said they were connected with North Central after they completed a five-year business plan in the late 1990s with the PennWest Clarion Small Business Development Center.

“We actually got the idea of getting funding when we sat in the (PA Wilds) meetings,” Steve Kronenwetter said. “How do we get money? What money is available to us? They keep telling us to do this, but we didn’t have the resources. I wasn’t going to go to a bank and say, ‘oh by the way I’m going to build this, give me money,’ and they are going to give it to me. Where is the state going to come in and help out? That is when we started talking to DCED, who hooked us up to North Central, who helped us put the concept together.”

The tourism sector in Pennsylvania, according to the state’s Department of Community and Economic Development, is among the largest in the state bringing more than $76 billion a year into the economy and supports 486,000 jobs. Gov. Josh Shapiro is seeking to invest an additional $18 million into the fiscal year 2024-25 budget for tourism and business marketing efforts.

According to DCED, PIDA, since 2023, has greenlit more than $56 million in low-interest loans that have leveraged more than $165 million in private investments and created and retained more than 1,520 full-time jobs.

Jennifer Hibbard, who serves as Loan Program Director at North Central, said once the Kronenwetter’s secured financing from their own bank, the commission began the application process for the PIDA loan for the new lodge.

“We were pleased to assist the Kronenwetters with access to low-interest financing from the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority for the expansion of their successful cabin rental business with the addition of a lodge-style facility to accommodate larger groups of visitors to the region,” Hibbard said. “This project is an investment that supports local economic growth through tourism and outdoor recreation in the PA Wilds.”

Eligible businesses who commit to creating and retaining full-time jobs can apply for PIDA’s low-interest loans. Loans can be utilized for land and building acquisitions, construction and renovation costs, machinery and equipment purchases, working capital and accounts receivable lines of credit, multi-tenant facility projects, and industrial park projects.

For more information on North Central’s business financing, contact Jennifer Hibbard at 814-773-3162, ext. 3049 or visit www.ncentral.com/business-loans.