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March/April 2001

Inside This Issue:

 

Aero-tourism Lands in Rural Pennsylvania
Tourism is an important component of Pennsylvania’s rural economy. In 1999 alone, the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development estimated that travelers to the state’s rural areas spent more than $4.35 billion.

But who is visiting Pennsylvania’s rural areas? Of course we know of the nature lover, the history buff, and the sportsman and woman – but what about pilots and their passengers?

In rural Pennsylvania, there are 55 public airports, which catered to an average of 43 operations, or landings and take-offs, every day in 2000.

Many of the pilots and passengers who use these airports have the potential to be an important component to rural tourism and may be the next group that rural tourism agencies put on their radar screen.

Let's call it aero-tourism
Aero-tourism, as we’ll call it, is a relatively new market niche in the tourism industry. Since there is no standard definition for the concept at this time, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania will loosely define the concept as getting pilots and passengers from local airports to surrounding areas of interest.

While it is unlikely that aero-tourism will dominate the rural tourism market, it has the potential to play a supporting role. And, like other rural tourism niches, such as nature-based tourism, heritage tourism, and farm vacations, aero-tourism needs to be further developed and marketed to the traveling public.

To better understand this niche and learn more about its growth potential in rural areas, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania analyzed the following four sources of data:

* The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s (PennDOT) Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Airport Directory, published by the Bureau of Aviation in 1999, which lists licensed public airports within the state, the services they provide, hours of operation, and any amenities provided;

* Data from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which was used to identify the number of licensed pilots by county and by states surrounding Pennsylvania, including Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and West Virginia;

* A report by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), which was used to examine the demographic and socio-economic characteristics of member pilots; and

* An informal phone survey of rural tourism promotion agencies (TPA), which focused on the role that public airports had on tourism in these regions.

The analysis says . . .
The results of the analysis include the following:

* In 1999, there were 134 public airports in Pennsylvania. Rural areas had 55 airports, or 41 percent of the state total. Urban areas had 79 airports, or 59 percent of the state total.

* Only three airports in rural areas have regularly scheduled flights: Bradford Regional Airport in McKean County, Dubois-Jefferson County Airport in Jefferson County, and Venango Regional Airport in Venango County. In urban areas, there are 13 airports with regularly scheduled services.

Airport use
* In 2000, the average rural airport had nearly 16,000 operations, which are landings and take-offs. This is an average of 43 operations per day.

* Excluding the two busiest airports in the state — Philadelphia International and Pittsburgh International — the average urban airport has twice as many operations as the average rural airport.

* In rural areas, 7 percent of all airport operations occur at scheduled service airports, 50 percent occur at business service airports and 43 percent occur at general service airports.

Airport facilities & services
* Many airports provide a variety of facilities and services, including everything from lights on the runway to aviation fuel to hanger rentals. Rural airports have slightly more airport facilities and services than urban airports.

* The least available services at both rural and urban airports are repair facilities followed by electronic navigation aides, and aviation fueling facilities.

Visitor facilities & services
* More than 45 percent of rural airports do not provide any food services. Food services include on-site restaurants, snack bars, vending machines, and even nearby restaurants.

* According to PennDOT’s data, rural airports have fewer nearby hotels or motels than urban airports. However, travelers are more likely to find a restroom in a rural airport than in an urban one. In addition, rural airports are more likely to have a public telephone than urban airports.

Ground transportation
* In most cases, airports are not located in commercial centers. Once a pilot lands, getting from the airport to his or her final destination requires a car, taxi, or bus. According to PennDOT’s data, many pilots and passengers who land at rural airports have few options. Only two-in-five rural airports have taxi services.

* Car rentals are available at less than 30 percent of rural airports and only 16 percent of rural airports provide courtesy cars. None provide bus service.

Economic impact of airports
* According to data from PennDOT’s economic impact study, rural airports generate an estimated 1,650 jobs with a total payroll of about $31.5 million. By comparison, urban airports generate an estimated 286,500 jobs with a total payroll of about $5.5 billion.

* When economic factors are combined, rural airports produced $101.5 million in economic activities, or roughly $40 per capita. Urban airports produced more than $12.4 billion in economic activities or about $1,300 per capita.

Pilots
* According to the FAA, in 1998, there were 588,654 active pilots in the United States. Between 1990 and 1998, the total number of pilots declined 12 percent.

* In Pennsylvania, there are just over 18,000 active licensed pilots. Nationally, the Commonwealth ranks ninth in the total number of pilots. California, Texas, and Florida have the most number of pilots – more than 45,000 each — while Vermont, Delaware, and Rhode Island have the least — less than 1,600 each.

Tourism promotion and airports
* According to the informal survey of TPA directors, about 46 percent said that their organization has marketing materials at public use airports located within their region.

* About 46 percent of directors said that the public airport located within their region was a member of the TPA.

* When asked to estimate how many travelers to the region used the local public airport last year, 73 percent of directors did not know. Among those who were able to make an estimate, half said less than 500 visitors used the local airport.

* Asked if they thought the local airport would play a larger role in tourism promotion over the next five year, 80 percent of the directors said yes. About 40 percent commented that the airport within their region was about to expand.

Where to go from here
Aero-tourism may be only a small segment of the entire rural tourism market. However, it has the potential to be an important piece of a larger opportunity. Through effective marketing, aero-tourism has the potential to grow, especially if it is combined with other types of activities such as wildlife viewing, hunting and fishing, and heritage tourism.

For this market to grow, however, more basic services, such as transportation to and from the airports, will be needed, and local TPAs will need to develop marketing strategies geared toward the aero-tourist.

Want more info?
For the more detailed fact sheet, Landing on a Rural Opportunity, contact the Center for Rural Pennsylvania at (717) 787-9555 or email info@ruralpa.org.

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Chairman’s Message
Along with serving as chairman of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, I serve on a legislative committee that deals with issues relating to tourism and recreational development in our Commonwealth. Tourism of all types helps to bolster the state’s economy, and is second only to agriculture in importance on an economic scale.

Our feature article on aero-tourism brings to mind an earlier era when airplanes and their pilots were novelties, barnstorming across the United States and drawing large audiences along their flight paths. Their arrival created a reason for people to gather together and have some fun. Today, small airplanes touching down on rural runways may not be the center of attention for local residents, but the planes still play an important role in bringing people together. And they certainly provide a different perspective for those who enjoy getting a bird’s eye view of the Keystone State.

This mode of travel has given flight to another niche market in the tourism industry that involves getting pilots and passengers from rural airports to the areas and activities that surround them. The Center for Rural Pennsylvania’s recent analysis of public airports in rural areas has identified aero-tourism as a key ingredient in the growing network of businesses that support our Commonwealth’s tourism industry.

Of the 134 public airports in Pennsylvania, 41 percent are in rural areas. Last year, the average rural airport had nearly 16,000 planes landing and taking off. Rural communities may want to invest in updating and upgrading these existing resources, putting this infrastructure together with effective marketing to help aero-tourism take off, especially when it is combined with other types of rural tourism activities. For more information on aero-tourism, ask for the Center for Rural Pennsylvania fact sheet, Landing on a Rural Opportunity.

This issue of Rural Perspectives includes other opportunities which you may want to explore, including a program that allows teachers to get in touch with their farming roots through an educational seminar called "Ag in the Classroom." Whether a teacher grew up on a farm or has never set foot on a farm, this week-long field trip brings rural and urban educators together for a learning experience they can incorporate later in their lesson plans. Their personal experience will help them teach future students about Pennsylvania’s number one industry by blending this information about agriculture into their curriculum mix of math, science, and other subjects – helping children understand how agriculture affects everyone’s life, every day.

On page 6, you’ll also find a brief summary of two reports released by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania that offer more insight into rural populations, and on pages 5 and 7, information on important programs and conferences of interest to rural Pennsylvanians.

As the countryside is reawakening with lengthening days and warmer temperatures, the coming of spring rejuvenates us and helps us prepare for another busy growing season. Whether we gaze down upon our rich land from high in the sky, or from knee level as we plant a seed, rural Pennsylvania is certainly something to behold. Enjoy.

Representative Sheila Miller

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Cows in the Classroom? Well, Sort of . . .
Agriculture is a part of everyone’s life; it’s the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the medicines we use, and the homes in which we live. As more and more people become further removed from the farm and the understanding of how agriculture affects our lives, it is important to continue educating the public, and especially children, on how agriculture affects our economy and our society.

For about 20 years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been supporting a program called, "Ag in the Classroom," to educate kindergarten through 12th grade students about our nation’s agricultural system. Over the past decade or so, however, the number of Ag in the Classroom programs has declined in Pennsylvania. While more than 200 schools were offering agricultural education programs about 10 years ago, today, only 167 schools administer some type of agricultural education. The biggest barrier to getting more schools interested in agricultural education is the misconception of what agricultural education is all about.

To clear up any misconceptions and increase the program’s use among teachers, the Agriculture Awareness Foundation of Pennsylvania (AAFPA), a non-profit foundation created in 1991, has recently stepped up its efforts by focusing its attention on teachers.

Hands-on learning
The AAFPA stresses to teachers that the Ag in the Classroom program differs from other ag-based curricula because it incorporates practical ideas into mathematics, health and nutrition, science, and writing. The program consists of classroom and laboratory instruction, supervised agricultural experiences, and leadership activities through such associations as the 4-H club and Future Farmers of America.

More teacher participation
Today, the AAFPA is trying to make the curricula more accessible to teachers who have little or no experience in agricultural education by offering Ag in the Classroom Teacher Workshops. Participants in the workshops, which are cosponsored by the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, receive transportation, educational resources, and room and board at Penn State University’s Main Campus.

As part of the weeklong summer workshop, participating teachers visit farms, ranches, and food production, processing, and distribution plants to learn how food moves from its source to the consumer. Teachers also receive instruction through field trips and in-class seminars on such topics as nutrition, ecology, food use, and pest control in the farming industry. Participants may then integrate the information about agriculture and the earth’s natural resources into their class curricula. The teachers use personal experiences from the workshops to explain to their students how Pennsylvania’s largest industry affects lives everyday.

According to the AAFPA, 690 educators from nearly all of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties have graduated from the program since 1992. These educators have taught more than 86,000 students, and by sharing information and instruction with their colleagues, they have potentially reached more than 258,000 students since that first workshop in 1992.

Summer workshop slated
The next Ag in the Classroom Teacher Workshops will be held July 16 to July 21, 2001. Teachers interested in attending the workshops and receiving scholarships or other funding support are encouraged to contact their county farm bureau.

For more information or to receive a free Ag in the Classroom brochure, interested teachers may also e-mail member@pfb.com; visit the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau’s website at http://www.pfb.com/programs/aitc.html; visit the AAFPA website at www.cas.psu.edu/docs/CASPROF/AgClassroom/agclassroom.html; or call Carol Ann Gregg, Education Coordinator at (724) 458-6108.

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Public Service through Volunteerism
A Look at the Americorps Program

Public service has always been a vital force in America. Today, people of all ages and backgrounds are working at the grassroots level to address our nation’s most pressing issues – improving schools, protecting the environment, and combating homelessness, just to name a few.

AmeriCorps has more recently become a part of a long tradition of public service that has included the Civilian Conservation Corps, the GI Bill, and the Peace Corps.

Where it began
AmeriCorps was established in 1993 by the federal government with the aim of encouraging community volunteerism by enlisting people in public-service activities. It works this way: an individual volunteers for one to two years of service while receiving a living stipend and an education grant to help finance a college education or to pay student loans. In general, full-time AmeriCorps volunteers work at least 1,700 hours in one year and receive an education grant of about $4,700. Part-time AmeriCorps volunteers work 900 hours and are eligible for about $2,600 in grants. The money must be used within seven years and can only be used for education. Volunteers also may receive a living stipend of up to $9,000.

AmeriCorps has grown from a pilot program to include more than 37,000 people participating in more than 700 projects nationwide. These projects focus primarily on education, the environment, public safety, and human services. Participants have taught, tutored, or mentored more than 2 million children; run after-school programs for about 500,000 low-income children; helped more than 200,000 senior citizens live independently; planted 52 million trees; and created 40,000 neighborhood "safe zones."

AmeriCorps in rural Pennsylvania
PennSERVE, a branch of the Governor’s Office of Citizen Service, administers AmeriCorps in Pennsylvania. Penn-SERVE was created to promote community service through grants, training, and assistance and is the central communications hub for all of the federally supported programs.

Three of the nine AmeriCorps State Programs are located in rural counties. Of the 27 AmeriCorps VISTA Programs, 13 are operating in rural counties; of the 33 Learn and Serve Programs, 17 are operating in rural counties; and of the 44 senior programs, 28 are operating in rural counties.

One of four major programs currently running in rural Pennsylvania is the Pennsylvania Mountain Service Corps (PMSC), sponsored by the Appalachia Intermediate Unit 8. The PMSC covers Armstrong, Bedford, Blair, Cambria, Fayette, Fulton, Huntingdon, Indiana, Somerset, and Westmoreland counties and has 85 full-time members, and 10 part-time members. The PMSC, like other Americorps programs, focuses on four initiatives, including education, the environment, public safety and human needs. Through its efforts, the PMSC has tutored hundreds of students in math and reading, provided thousands of seniors and their families with necessary services and cleaned and tested hundreds of miles of water.

Other rural programs include the Family Service Corps of Butler County, which focuses on enhancing family and children services; Keystone Smiles, a program partnered with Clarion University and local school districts to address community educational programs; and C.O.R.E. Susquehanna, a multi-partnership program covering a seven-county area, where volunteers work in schools, libraries, social service agencies and wilderness areas.

AmeriCorps allows people of all ages and backgrounds to strengthen rural and urban communities, and gain life skills.

For more information about Americorps, visit its website at www.americorps.org, or call 800-94A-CORP. More information on the C.O.R.E. Susquehanna program is at www.coresusquehanna.org.

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Did You Know . . .

* In 1999, three out of every eight rural Pennsylvanians had a library card.

* In 1999, the average rural library cardholder checked out nine books.

* According to U.S. Census Bureau data, in 1997, rural residents spent more than $2 billion on health care and social assistance, or roughly $820 per person.

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Municipal Leadership Conference Set for May and June
Local government officials looking to develop their leadership skills should make plans now to attend the 2001 Local Government Leadership Summit, set for May and June. The conference, sponsored by the One Source Municipal Training Program of the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors (PSATS) and the Governor’s Center for Local Government Services, will be held in six locations across the state and will feature prominent national speakers. The registration fee is $75 on or before May 1 and $90 after May 1. Dates, locations and hotel registration information for each conference are listed below.

* May 16 & 17, Dauphin County, Sheraton East Harrisburg, (717) 561-2800, www.usahotelguide.com/states/pennsylvania/harrisburg/sheraton_inn.html

* May 17 & 18, Chester County, Best Western Exton, (610) 363-1100, www.bestwestern.com

* June 6 & 7, Centre County, Toftrees Resort and Conference Center, (800) 252-3551, www.toftrees.com

* June 7 & 8, Lehigh County, Sheraton Inn Jetport, (610) 266-1000, www.sheratonjetport.com

* June 20 & 21, Westmoreland County, Mountain View Inn, (724) 834-5300, www.mountainviewinn.com

* June 21 & 22, Crawford County, Holiday Inn Express, (814) 724-6012

To register for the conference, contact the PSATS One Source Program at (717) 763-0930 or fax (717) 763-9732.

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Reports Offer Important Insights into Rural Populations
Is state government spending enough on job development efforts, childcare and health service issues? Do rural Pennsylvanians trust government and how would they rate its overall job performance? These are just some of the issues addressed in a study recently sponsored by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania and released as part of the report, An Attitudinal Survey of Pennsylvania’s Rural Residents.

A second report recently released by the Center, Pennsylvania’s Rural Women: A Demographic and Socioeconomic Profile, also answers basic questions about the characteristics of our state’s rural women that have until now gone unanswered.

Both reports are based on one-year studies and offer important insights about a majority segment of our state’s rural population and the population as a whole.

Putting thoughts on paper
An Attitudinal Survey of Pennsylvania’s Rural Residents was conducted by Dr. Michael Young and a team of researchers from the Center for Survey Research and the Institute of State and Regional Affairs at the Pennsylvania State University’s Capital Campus. The survey, conducted and compiled throughout 1999 and 2000, gathered baseline data on rural opinions and attitudes across a spectrum of policy relevant issues that either had been or were quickly becoming a part of Pennsylvania’s public policy agenda. Previously, no statewide baseline data had existed on Pennsylvania’s rural population with respect to its opinions and attitudes on such issues as government spending, population stability and outmigration, confidence and trust in government institutions, measuring state government performance on policy issues, support for regional cooperation, and controlling sprawl.

To conduct the survey, researchers used a random sample telephone survey of 844 rural Pennsylvanians, aged 18 or older, who live in the state’s 42 rural counties.

A sampling of results
* Sixty-five percent of survey respondents said that government is spending "too little" in the policy area of job creation; 60 percent said that government was spending too little on child care issues; and 57 percent said too little was being spent on health services.

* Respondents judged government spending as "just right" in the areas of parks and recreation, historic preservation and public transportation.

* In general, rural Pennsylvanians show a moderate to high level of trust and confidence in major governmental institutions.

* The four most important policy areas to rural Pennsylvanians are education, public safety, jobs/economic development, and health services.

* Overall, state government received a medium to medium-low job rating on 16 policy areas.

* On the issue of sprawl, rural Pennsylvanians strongly support local government action to control sprawl.

Women in the majority
Women make up more than half of Pennsylvania’s rural population and have distinct needs and characteristics from urban females and rural and urban males, according to the study Pennsylvania’s Rural Women: A Demographic and Socioeconomic Profile.

The study, conducted by Dr. Gretchen Cornwell of Penn State University, looked at the characteristics of the Commonwealth’s female population living in rural areas and compared those characteristics with rural men, urban women, and urban men. The project was based primarily on data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Surveys of 1996, 1997, and 1998.

A sample of survey results
* Rural women are more likely to be currently married than any other group.

* About 20 percent of rural women live in a female-headed household.

* More than 25 percent of rural women live alone and almost 33 percent of urban women live alone. Men are less likely to live alone.

* About 55 percent of rural women, aged 15 years and older, are in the labor force compared to 69 percent of rural men and 58 percent of urban women.

* Unemployment rates for rural women and men are slightly higher than for their urban counterparts and rural men are more likely to be unemployed than are rural women.

* Seventy-five percent of rural women report wages and salary as a source of family income, and over 30 percent report social security income.

* About 13 percent of rural women live in poverty.

Want more info?
For a copy of either report, call the Center for Rural Pennsylvania at (717) 787-9555 or email info@ruralpa.org.

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Just the Facts: Taxing Times Ahead
It’s that time of year again - time to dig out your receipts, calculator, software, pens, pencils…and especially your patience. Tax season is here!

In 1998, the most current year of data available from the state Department of Revenue, 1.13 million rural Pennsylvanians filed personal income tax returns and contributed $968 million to the state coffers. Urban taxpayers filed 4.13 million returns, helping to generate $4.7 billion for the state.

Per capita, rural tax filers contributed about $380 in income taxes in 1998, representing an increase of 49 percent from the $255 contributed in 1988. The $968 million in 1998 taxes represents a 56 percent increase from the $621 million generated 10 years earlier. The increases are due in part to the rate increase from 2.1 percent of taxable income in 1988 to 2.8 percent in 1998. Urban residents paid significantly more per capita in personal income taxes at $499 each.

Revenue generated per return filed in 1998 was also much higher for urban Pennsylvanians at $1,144 compared to the rural returns of $856.

The state earned 35 percent of its total general fund revenues from personal income taxes in the 1998-1999 fiscal year. Other earnings include 34 percent from sales and use taxes, 21 percent from corporate taxes, and the remaining 10 percent from other sources.

If you live in rural Pennsylvania, let’s hope you took an accounting class to help with your tax preparation since tax preparation businesses are few and far between. There were only 120 such business establishments in the state’s 42 rural counties in 1998. Five counties had none, while six others had only one. No rural county had more than 10.

In addition to having fewer tax preparation businesses, rural residents have much farther to travel to reach tax assistance businesses. Rural tax preparers average four for every 1,000 square miles compared to 20 in urban areas.

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