Hiawassee designated an Appalachian Gateway Community

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Appalachian Gateway

Sponsored by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the 3-day workshop provides participants with skills to capitalize on opportunities related to sustainable drivers for local economic development, cultural heritage, natural resource tourism, public arts promotion, and preservation with stewardship of community character. In addition to enhancing a community’s natural and historic assets, the role of the arts–particularly in revitalizing downtowns–is explored by community teams to assist in developing strategies to safeguard community character and drive local economic development.

Hiawassee mayor Liz Ordiales

Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales

“For decades, local industry has relied on extracting Appalachia’s rich natural resources such as coal, timber, and gas,” the organization states. “Although these industries have historically provided a local job base, poverty has been a pervasive challenge in many Appalachian communities. In recent years the Appalachian region’s economy has become more diversified; yet, even with infusions of new types of industry, the region still does not reflect the economic status of the rest of the nation.

“With programming that has included targeted technical assistance, community tourism assessments, tourism planning workshops, and small grants for project implementation, the AGCI (Appalachian Gateway Communities Initiative) focuses on communities that are entry points to some of Appalachia’s most important natural assets: national and state parks and forests. In addition to enhancing a community’s natural assets, the AGCI also emphasizes the role of the arts –particularly in revitalizing downtowns – in a comprehensive natural and cultural heritage tourism development strategy.”

Since 2007, The Conservation Fund’s Conservation Leadership Network, with ample support from the ARC and NEA, has led the Appalachian Gateway Communities Initiative to expand tourism, the arts, and other economic development opportunities for Appalachia’s gateway communities.

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