For many years, Southwest Virginia has struggled as the coal industry shrank and much of the manufacturing sector left the region.
But now, Southwest is making a comeback.
That’s the sound of the Crooked Road Music Heritage Trail, which is one of the key players transforming Southwest Virginia. No longer is this a region tied to coal and manufacturing and agriculture. Wendy Wasserman at the Appalachian Regional Commission says a network of institutions and organizations have shown that this region can support entrepreneurial efforts beyond a local economy dominated by a few major employers.
“And they’re looking at a couple of sectors that really spark people’s interest and passion and culture," Wasserman says. "So that’s things like music and art and tourism and cultivating a creative economy that allows bright ideas to flourish.”
Shannon Blevins at UVA's College at Wise says Southwest Virginia is at a turning point. “In addition to industry recruitment, which is always going to be a part of an economic development strategy, really building up the whole creative economy around the arts and the music and the craftsmanship and the food.”
In the last decade, tourism expenditures have gone up almost 50 percent. That spending has generated a 23 percent increase in local tax revenue.