Venango Chamber takes Be Here campaign to highway billboards

Danae Nelson, owner of a yoga and pilates studio in Franklin, is featured in a Be Here promotional billboard blitz. (Contributed photo)

A promotional campaign called “Be Here” and aimed at convincing people to”live, work and play here” in Oil City and the surrounding area has gone “big.”

“We are trying to get the word out and so we decided to go big and catch people’s attention,” said Ashley Cowles, program manager at the Venango Area Chamber of Commerce that sponsors the initiative. “So, we chose billboards.”

The come-hither Be Here project, one that Cowles oversees, was launched in January 2017 and has proven to be a hefty drawing card for encouraging individuals and families to move back home as well as enticing new residents to the area.

In the newest twist, the large billboards feature photographs of several local residents who have shared what Cowles described as “testimonials as to why they chose to call Oil City their home.”

“Some of them moved back here and others came here,” said Cowles. “They were willing to share their stories.”

The first large billboards were erected a few weeks ago. They are located on Route 257 (Seneca Hill) and on Route 8 (15th Street hill).

Featured on the colorful billboards are Warren Thomas, owner of Baytree Farm along Route 38 in Emlenton, at the Seneca Hill site, and Danae Nelson, owner of Impel Pilates and Yoga Studio in Franklin at the 15th Street hill location.

The billboards will be changed up every two months, said Cowles.

On Aug. 19, signs will be erected on Route 8 (Oil City-Rouseville Road) and Route 322 (at 8th Street Bridge, Franklin).

Featured on those promotional signs will be Tessa, Jon and Charlotte Byham on the Route 8 billboard and Rachel Stiller of Borchers Inc. at the Route 322 sign. The names of other local residents who will be featured on the signs will be announced at a later date.

The Be Here campaign champions the area and notes on the billboards that “business opportunities, close to family (and) sense of community” are key elements in encouraging people to come to the region.

“They chose to live here and we encourage people who want to share their story to visit our website,” said Cowles.

The website can be found at