Heartland Hall

Pennsylvania Small Business Development Centers help aspiring entrepreneurs fulfill their dreams and, by so doing, meet the needs of their communities. To Nancy Pyle, civic leader, health care professional, and Bedford County booster, the need was obvious. “Bedford County is beautiful,” she said, “and it deserves more.”

Even though the town of Bedford is close to the Pennsylvania Turnpike and equidistant from Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, it did not have a conference facility with the technical sophistication to attract corporate meetings. With the closing of the historic Bedford Springs Hotel in the early 1990s, Bedford no longer had a suitable place for festive social occasions.

Pyle dreamed of creating a center to fill this gap. As an event planner, Pyle was familiar with details that create great events. During numerous gatherings she attended, she took extensive notes on the features needed to make a first-rate conference center.

She knew she wanted up-to-date communications technology and a flexible design that could accommodate a large crowd. In addition, Pyle was determined to create an attractive and hospitable environment, qualities not often found in conference centers. Accessibility was crucial, of course. Pyle and her husband had canvassed the area for five years for a good location before they found a 58-acre farm only three miles from the Bedford turnpike exit. The farm's heart-shaped pond inspired a name for their project: Heartland Hall.

To make Heartland Hall a reality, they needed financing. Pyle first went to a state-sponsored regional lender that focuses on tourism businesses. There she was given a manual on starting a business, which confirmed for her the need for expert help. On the recommendation of the lender, she contacted Jeff Boldizar, senior management consultant for the Saint Francis University Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in Loretto.

The Saint Francis consultant worked with Pyle and the lender, researching market information and providing financial data and projections. As a result, Pyle's loan application for the $24 million project was approved and the partners broke ground in November 2004.

Heartland Hall opened in the summer of 2005 with numerous advance bookings, and business has grown steadily since. Heartland Hall's popularity since its opening shows that Pyle's careful planning and the SBDC's efforts have paid off. As a result, 25 new jobs were created.

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Heartland Hall opened its doors with help from the Saint Francis University SBDC.