This month PEC hosted the 2019 Pennsylvania Mountain Bike Summit at Raystown Lake, where mountain bike clubs were represented alongside land conservancies, outdoor businesses, Chambers of Business, and DCNR staff. Our guest of honor and featured speaker was Gary Sjoquist of Quality Bicycle Products (QBP). For those who may not be familiar, Quality Bicycles (QBP or simply “the Q”) is the bike shop behind your local bike shop – supplying bicycles, parts, and accessories to more than 5000 shops across the U.S. and Canada.
Gary has a unique role at Minneapolis-based QBP. As the first person in the industry to be hired as a full-time bicycle advocate, he serves on Minnesota’s Recreation Trails Committee, which helps determine grant awards to projects.
He has also served on the boards of several national organizations, including the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA), Bikes Belong (now People for Bikes), and most recently, the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA). Gary has been instrumental in launching Pennsylvania’s own NICA league, one of the fastest-growing leagues in the country. His years of experience shaping policy to promote cycling and outdoor recreation have helped make Minnesota one of the leading recreation states in the nation – and we were eager to learn from that experience.
Pennsylvania is poised to capitalize on opportunities that other northeastern states can only dream of…
Gary’s message to Summit participants was optimistic: with more than 3 million acres of public lands and a recreation economy already generating over $29 billion annually, he said, Pennsylvania is poised to capitalize on opportunities that other northeastern states can only dream of. But that can only happen if groups are willing to reach out and create new partnerships to better understand the wealth of opportunities at their doorstep.
During Gary’s whirlwind two-day Pennsylvania trip, PEC staff had the opportunity to join several members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly and staff from the House Tourism committee on an exclusive tour of QPB’s northeast distribution center.
The company opened its first Pennsylvania facility near Harrisburg in 2013, enabling them to offer one-day shipping to the majority of the East Coast. Since relocating to Lancaster, the facility has expanded to employ more than 100 Pennsylvanians at the peak of the season, surpassing their original Minnesota warehouse in volume shipped. The tour group was very interested in the business reach of QBP, but also in their practice of encouraging dealers to get involved in their local communities. Their questions and comments reflected a shared recognition of the value of place-based recreation businesses, and the role that access to public lands plays in their success.
Rural health systems, which often struggle with staffing, are finding that access to trails makes it easier to recruit doctors.
PEC also arranged for Gary to make a presentation to DCNR and PennDOT staff on Minnesota’s efforts to encourage successful outdoor recreation projects, including significant investment to help rural communities benefit from trails. By taking a landscape-level view of public lands and communities, he explained, Minnesota has been able to redevelop former mining communities as tourism destinations and improve the quality of life for residents. By way of example he spoke about rural health systems, which often struggle with staffing, discovering that better access to trails makes them much more effective at recruiting doctors.
It was a rare treat to accompany Gary on his travels across Pennsylvania, and to participate in so many vital conversations about how best to both protect and take advantage of the many opportunities afforded by our wealth of outdoor-recreation resources.