It’s hard not to share the optimism that many Crawford County residents have for the future of Conneaut Lake Park, now that the financially-troubled vintage amusement park has been sold to Keldon Holdings LLC for $1.2 million.

After all, the place has a storied history, great potential as a tourist attraction and local recreation hub, and has recently made great strides toward achieving financial stability. The financial transformation has been led by the Economic Progress Alliance of Crawford County, which has served as the park’s temporary management group.

Two years ago, Edinboro University’s Center for Branding and Strategic Communication was privileged to have worked with the Economic Progress Alliance to do a wide array of branding work for Conneaut Lake Park. The work ranged from the reintroduction of the park’s retro mascot, Connie Otter, to the development of a series of vintage posters and helping to manage the park’s social media platforms throughout the 2019 season.

The center is part of the NWPA Innovation Beehive Network, a grant-funded collaborative between the four universities in Erie County and the Erie County Public Library System aimed at fostering regional economic development. To learn more about our work on behalf of Conneaut Lake Park, check out this episode of our "Buzz, Generated" podcast and my interview with Jim Becker and Angela Annibale of the Economic Progress Alliance.

Through the NWPA Innovation Beehive Network, we work with our beehive partners at Gannon University, Mercyhurst University, Penn State Behrend and the Blasco Library to provide free specialized assistance to business start-ups and other organizations in support of business creation and expansion. To this point, the Conneaut Lake Park collaboration was one of just a few to occur outside of Erie County. However, with the support of a new grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission, the beehive network is expanding its service area to more than a dozen additional counties in Northwest Pennsylvania, Northeast Ohio and Western New York, including Crawford County.

I encourage organizations in Crawford County, especially new businesses, to make use of our services. The easiest way to check out what we do is to go to our website. And you can start at any of the beehives. We meet with each other frequently, actually get along, and often refer clients to our partner beehives within the network. Of course, we can’t take on all clients, and there is sometimes a waiting list, but that’s only because word gets around when you do quality work for free!

In closing, I’d like to thank the leadership team at the Economic Progress Alliance for the huge role they played in transforming Conneaut Lake Park into a marketable property and helping to find a private buyer for it. Of course, I am also proud of the comparatively small role that the students and faculty in our beehive played in helping them along the way. It is virtually impossible to overstate the potential economic impact a vibrant Conneaut Lake Park can have, not only on the community of Conneaut Lake, but throughout Crawford County and all of Northwest Pennsylvania.

I must admit that my view was not always so sunny. When COVID-19 shuttered the park for the 2020 season after all of the great work that had been done, it felt like a punch in the gut that threatened to knock out all of the progress that had been made. Instead, it seems like Jim Becker and his team, along with the park’s board of trustees and many others, came together to throw the ultimate counterpunch in landing Conneaut Lake Park a qualified, enthusiastic and forward-thinking owner.

Tony Peyronel is executive director of Edinboro University’s Center for Branding and Strategic Communication, which is part of the NWPA Innovation Beehive Network. The network is a grant-funded collaboration between Edinboro, Gannon University, Mercyhurst University, Penn State Behrend and the Erie County Public Library that provides free specialized services to business start-ups and other organizations.

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