New Holland sportsman's shop shouts new group's message: Hunting Works - Business
Like clockwork, they arrive in eastern Lancaster County every year.Throngs of hunters from Connecticut, New York and Philadelphia descend on New Holland, Ephrata and Intercourse for the opening of Pennsylvania's dove season Sept. 1.They spend several days sitting in cornfields waiting for doves.And during their stay, they spend money in area hotels, restaurants and hunting-supply stores."That's a very real economic impact on the community," said Joe Keffer, owner of The Sportsman's Shop in New Holland.Keffer is co-chair of a fledgling organization called Hunting Works for Pennsylvania, which pledges to spread the word across the state that hunting is big business here."It's an important part of our industry," said Rob Fulton, president and CEO of Pennsylvania Association of Travel and Tourism."Outdoor activities are a big part of what happens in this state for us, and hunting is certainly one of those."Leaders of the group, which already has members in 38 Pennsylvania counties, visited Wednesday with the editorial board of Lancaster Newspapers.According to their data:• Local and out-of-state hunters spend about $1 billion annually on hunting-related goods and services in Pennsylvania.• That spending translates to about $530 million in salaries and wages.• Hunters pay about $121 million in state and local taxes.But no one's really telling the world about that impact, said Tony Reiss, one of two staffers for Hunting Works for Pennsylvania."We feel there's a void there that we can fill," Reiss said.And by calling more attention to the economic benefits, the organization hopes local and state tourism groups will do more to promote hunting in Pennsylvania.In other states, such as South Dakota, tourism bureaus and the business community work together to push hunting, said Rob Sexton, the other Hunting Works for Pennsylvania staffer.Pennsylvania Association of Travel and Tourism currently spends no money to promote it, Fulton said.Hunting Works for Pennsylvania also believes that growing the hunting industry could convince individuals and government agencies to consider the consequences of taking actions that could hurt it.Shutting down a shooting range, for example, because of neighbors' complaints about noise could push those hunters and other gun enthusiasts who frequent the range to spend money on gas, food and ammunition away from that community, Sexton said."If that impact is in the front of people's minds, maybe they'll be more inclined not to take that action," he said.Launched in June with a grant from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Hunting Works for Pennsylvania is working its way across the state to encourage business and tourism bureaus to join its ranks.More than 60 have signed on — it costs nothing to join — and Sexton expects the group will exceed its goal of 100 by the end of the year.So far, Keffer's store is the only Lancaster County business to join."There are upwards of 2,500 sporting goods stores in the state of Pennsylvania, and every one of them ought to be a member," Keffer said.