The entrance in the foreground will be the façade for the new PA Wilds Media Lab in Kane.

KANE — The PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship Inc., a regional nonprofit, has received a $131,992 grant from WestPenn Power Sustainable Energy Fund to support an energy assessment and the development of the PA Wilds Media Lab, to be housed on the second floor of Laughing Owl Press at 59 N. Fraley St. in Kane.

WestPenn is also announcing the purchase of 63 N. Fraley St., located next door. They have also awarded a grant of $7,500 for the Kane Area Community Center at 46 S. Fraley St. to fund an energy audit of the building.

These investments in the PA Wilds Center and Kane are part of a broader WestPenn initiative to help revitalize distressed Pennsylvania communities through clean energy innovation.

The PA Wilds Media Lab will provide an economic stimulus to the borough of Kane and to the broader PA Wilds 12 ½ county region by assisting over 300 businesses and organizations from outdoor recreation outfitters, to micro-manufacturers and artisans, to craft agricultural producers that are members of the Wilds Cooperative of Pennsylvania. Through this grant partnership, the PA Wilds Center will document the building’s thermal envelope and energy system audit and improvement process in an educational format that can be utilized by other distressed communities in the PA Wilds region.

Luciano Builders of Bradford was selected via a competitive proposal process to lead construction of the PA Wilds Media Lab. Work begins later this summer.

Tataboline Enos, CEO of the PA Wilds Center, said, “Sustainable energy and stewardship is a core theme of the PA Wilds work. We are thrilled to have a partner willing to tackle one of the toughest jobs in rural revitalization with us — preserving main street buildings and our community character — while modernizing them for energy efficiency, cost efficiency and accessibility. Thanks to WPPSEF’s investment, mentorship, and the support of our other funders, including The Collins Companies Foundation and the USDA, I’m confident we’ll be able to share key learnings, tips and a model for other communities.”

All investments are part of a broader commitment by WestPenn to pilot models for main street revitalization and energy sustainability for distressed communities in the Pennsylvania Wilds region and throughout the Commonwealth.

“Kane’s main street revitalization is just one example of many taking place in the Pennsylvania Wilds, but the partnership with WPPSEF is a new approach. This work connects environmental stewardship and historic preservation principles with more traditional community development models,” said Kristin Lewis, executive vice president of economic development for the PA Wilds Center and a resident of Kane.

Lewis continued, “Most of rural America is facing similar economic challenges, including struggling main streets and steep population declines. WPPSEF’s support for a green main street model is exciting for the whole region. Small businesses are the chief driver of job growth in the United States. Our main streets drive tourism and jobs, and help communities be more unique and vibrant, enhancing quality of life for residents. This in turn helps major employers in the region attract and retain talent. The Pennsylvania Wilds is better positioned than many rural parts of the country, because we are tackling these issues with a regional focus and innovative partnerships, like WPPSEF. That’s the key difference.”

The Pennsylvania Wilds, one of the state’s 11 official tourism regions, is a large rural area that covers about a quarter of the Commonwealth and is home to about 4 percent of the state’s population. The 12 1/2 –county landscape is known for its more than two million acres of public land — more than Yellowstone National Park.

Brandy Schimp, Kane’s mayor, said, “It just makes sense for our rural communities and counties to partner on a regional level. Our partnership with the PA Wilds has helped us attract support from partners like WPPSEF and learn about new models for community development. On a rural landscape, we really are stronger together! I’m honored to serve a town that has inspired new models for rural development and collaboration.”