HandMade in America of Asheville, has built a successful model for strengthening the local economies of
“What’s interesting is that
Originally conceived as a means of supplementing the declining manufacturing industry in the region with a thriving tourism industry, the program helps small towns create new revenue streams and jobs. “The program was also designed to make sure small towns are interesting and attractive places for visitors to go after they’ve been to
HandMade takes an asset-based planning approach – focusing on what the town has, rather than on what it lacks – to develop a strategic economic development plan. “Some of their assets have to do with the history and the culture of the town,” said Jetson. “Others have to do with the physical beauty of the region. Other times, the assets are oriented toward historic buildings or unique businesses. Most of all, in a lot of towns, the assets are the people and the skills that they bring to the task.”
In the case of Chimney Rock, the challenge was to capitalize on the tourism that
The addition of the Rocky Broad River Walk drew the town’s attention to other necessary projects: constructing parking lots and restrooms for visitors to use. More recently, they have wrapped up construction of an amphitheater for public concerts and events.
HandMade holds meetings twice a year for all of its participating small towns to attend and discuss successes and challenges that they’re facing. “There’s an important part of learning that goes on with people-to-people contact,” said Jetson. “It’s about relationships, it’s about being able to pick up the phone and call if you hit a snag. You’re not likely to ask for help from a stranger. We’re all in it together, and together is how they make the changes needed in their town.”
As part of HandMade’s broader mission of growing handmade economies through craft, the Small Town Revitalization Program applies to where artists live and where they sell their work. “Eighty percent of the craft galleries in western