Sustainable Economic Development for Southwest Virginia?

Several hundred government officials, business executives, crafters, musicians, and travel industry executives heard Governor Tim Kaine give his views on asset-based economic development yesterday at Creating a New Economy in Southwest Virginia, a conference held this week in Abingdon, VA.

Prior to speaking, he toured the room and spoke to many of those who have been working hard to make develop the region’s music and craft-based economy. In this photo, Governor Kaine is speaking to Joe Wilson, Chairman for the National Council for the Traditional Arts.

Governor Kaine emphasized this point near the end of his speech. "Success goes to those who tell their story to the marketplace." In a sense, that was the underlying theme of the entire conference, telling the story about the regions assets in a way that would attract tourists and investment.

The conference was hosted by Round the Mountain and the Crooked Road, two non-profit organizations seeking to create a new economy by supporting regional crafts and music.

The keynote speaker was Becky Anderson, a reformed industrial recruiter who founded HandMade in America
after realizing that companies painstakingly lured to North Carolina by
financial incentives and tax concessions were quick to leave when other
countries offered better terms and lower wages.

Handmade in America works to implement environmentally sustainable
economic solutions that emphasize the craft industry, enhance
opportunities in the marketplace, and develop entrepreneurial
strategies for the region’s crafts artisans. It has had a major effect
in creating a new business sector to support Ashville’s economy.

The major thrust of asset-based development is that a region must
focus on jobs that cannot be outsourced and must utilize its
sustainable natural resources, historical assets, and its craft-based
economy to develop a tourist economy in line with the growing interest
in educational, historical, and cultural tourism.

The critical factor is to achieve sustainable economic growth from local resources rather than by bringing in outside industry.

Floyd, VA tried to attract industry by building a modern structure
in an industrial park a few years ago. This might have been successful
fifteen years ago, but in an increasingly international marketplace,
manufacturing companies move quickly to where labor and land are cheap
in order to stay competitive.

Bringing in call centers is no panacea either. Call centers are
routinely located to wherever English-speaking workers can be found.

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