Growing a success narrative

Is Abingdon on the brink of a new renaissance? That was the title question of a front page Bristol Herald Courier story this week connecting new businesses in the Washington County town to a strategic investment in Southwest Virginia’s cultural heritage.

This little town might be the next Asheville, at least according to the buzz downtown,” opens staff writer Debra McCown.

“It’s been a sudden, subtle change, but seemingly overnight, the same sort of art galleries and crafty, eclectic shops that define that North Carolina tourist center are popping up in Abingdon, Va. – another artsy mountain town that some say is on the verge of discovering its creative economy.”

While people behind the scenes in any community revitalization effort know the development process is far from overnight, the article is a good sign for the systematic investments  in a job-creating, quality-of-life enhancing, tourism-attracting infrastructure made over the past decade. And it’s just the beginning.

Ground’s due to break on  Heartwood: Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Gateway early next month. While the cultural center is to be located in Abingdon, its mission is to send travelers, well-armed with tour itineraries and a piqued curiosities, out into the region to discover the authenic Southwest Virginia for themselves.

The Herald Courier article makes the connection.  And just by asking the question, “Is Abingdon on the brink of a new renaissance?” the paper establishes the narrative (and it’s more than that of an Asheville wannabe).  

Visible improvements downtown will now reinforce that storyline for local residents and answer the question with a resounding, heartfelt and fully engaged, “Yes.” It’s an opening, an invitation for further investment, and it’s a call to action.  There’s an opportunity at hand.

While Heartwood can help build a regional narrative for all of Southwestern Virginia, it’s up to individual communities to use it to construct their own success story, building on very local and unique assets.  And there are other opportunities out there in other regions.  The Blue Ridge Parkway celebrates its 75th anniversary next year. The civil war sesquicentennial represents a major marketing opportunity. And regional toursim trails add possibility throughout the Commonwealth.

But first your community has to know where its been and where its headed.  It’s part of every good tale of a hard-working community making good.  It’s the heart of our work.  What’s your revitalization story? And who’s telling it?