Nov. 21, 2011 – Economic development teams from 13 of western North Carolina’s small towns were brought together by HandMade in America Nov. 8-10 to participate in day-long conversations about their changing needs and recent successes.
HandMade’s Small Town Cluster Meetings provide participants in its Small Town Revitalization Program the opportunity to share best practices, network and learn about new funding and training resources available for their projects.
“We came out of the meetings with two priorities,” said Judi Jetson, director of economic development for HandMade in America. “One is the issue of renovating old buildings; getting the expertise and the resources that’s needed out to the towns in order to make that happen. The second area is the topic of trails. They’re all developing them and they want to get the word out to recreation enthusiasts.”
During the fall meetings, participants also discussed the challenges they are facing, including a growing demand for and shortage of rental housing for residents. Vacation rentals are readily available, but there is very little permanent rental housing in the tourism-oriented western N.C. small towns.
The fall cluster meetings in Bryson City and Crossnore came on the back of the launch of a new program at HandMade in America called Small Town Conversations, which provides a means of sharing homegrown solutions to the economic challenges that are unique to small towns.
“The program is peer mentoring,” said Jetson. “It’s showing people that they don’t have to hire a high-paid consultant in order to move their project forward; they can consult with the person in the town down the road. It’s a low-cost, low-risk, neighbors-helping-neighbors approach to revitalization that most of us can afford.”
For more information on the Small Town Revitalization Program, visit http://www.handmadeinamerica.org/economic-development/small-town-revitalization.