Summit Aims to Expand Laurel Highlands Economy using natural, cultural resources

Harrisburg, Pa. – Community leaders from throughout the Laurel Highlands will meet for a summit later this month to discuss ways to expand the region’s economy by capitalizing on its natural and cultural resources.

Scheduled for April 26-27, the first Laurel Highlands Summit is part of the region’s Conservation Landscape Initiative-an effort by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to raise the region’s quality of life while crafting a model of sustainable development tied to the natural and cultural assets of the region.

The initiative engages communities and local partners with state agencies and funding partners to conserve and protect the high-quality natural resources and enhance the region’s economic viability.

“The Laurel Highlands is a unique place and a treasure for the commonwealth,” said DCNR Secretary Michael DiBerardinis. “The region encompasses the state’s highest point and two of its three deepest river gorges in the Allegheny Mountain physical region, where deep-cut hollows and rushing streams with waterfalls are carved between rolling hillsides and picturesque farmlands.

“This summit will emphasize that, in a ‘live where you play’ world, the economic development potential in relation to the natural, cultural and heritage resources in the Laurel Highlands region is tremendous.”

Located an hour east of Pittsburgh, the Laurel Highlands is a tourism brand that attracts millions of people annually for scenic beauty, outdoor recreation and heritage.

The Laurel Highlands Conservation Landscape Initiative-one of seven such regional initiatives in the state-encompasses all of Westmoreland, Fayette and Somerset counties and parts of Cambria and Bedford counties. The initiative focuses on four sub-landscapes in the region: Laurel Ridge, Chestnut Ridge, the Great Allegheny Passage and the Stonycreek-Quemahoning corridor.

The summit will be held at the Hidden Valley Four Seasons Resort in Somerset County. Registration is required. The cost per person is $35 for one day or $55 for both days.

For registration and other information on the summit call the National Road Heritage Corridor at (724) 437-9877 or visit

The summit is being planned by DCNR, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, the National Road Heritage Corridor, the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau, The Progress Fund/Trail Towns Program, and Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

Kennedy Lawson Smith, a dynamic and visionary force nationally on promoting the connection between the economy and natural and cultural resources, is the featured speaker on April 26.  Smith is the former director of the Main Street Program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and co-founder of the Community Land Use and Economics Group.

On April 27, Rebecca Ryan will speak at the afternoon luncheon. The energetic founder of Next Generation Consulting, Ryan’s groundbreaking report, “Hot Jobs – Cool Communities,” and her book, Live First, Work Second, make a convincing case that jobs are not the only factor young people consider in deciding where to live. She is currently working on the “20-20 Cool Vision” project for Greater Johnstown.

The program also includes remarks by Cindy Dunn, DCNR deputy secretary, and Dee Kaplan, Department of Community and Economic Development deputy secretary, as well as three breakout sessions entitled, “Show Me the Green: Resource Stewardship to Sustain our Communities;” “Show Me the Money: Creating Business in Resource-Connected Communities;” and “Show Me the Place: Community Asset Planning and Management as Economic Development Tools.”

For more information about the Laurel Highlands and conservation landscape initiatives, visit and click on “Conservation Landscape Initiatives” under “Hot Topics.”