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Grant to help boost tourism plan in rural communities

East Carolina University and the Mid-East Resource Conservation and Development Council are working together to help rural communities develop a shared vision for tourism.

The North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center has awarded a $73,000 grant to Paige Schneider, assistant professor in the Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies, and David Hodges, coordinator of the Mid-East Resource Conservation and Development Council.

This initiative will help 11 towns in the Roanoke River Valley region join resources to grow the area’s economy. The towns involved are Hamilton, Oak City, Hassell, Halifax, Weldon, Scotland Neck, Hobgood, Williamston, Plymouth, Windsor and Jamesville.

“Most of North Carolina’s local towns historically developed around tobacco, textile, and furniture factories.  As manufacturing jobs have been lost, community leaders have been challenged to find innovative approaches to retain and create jobs,” said Schneider, who also holds an affiliate faculty position in the Center for Sustainable Tourism at ECU.

The project will focus on helping community leaders identify their tourism resources, services and infrastructure.  

“We will conduct an inventory of attractions, analyze market demands and competitiveness, and investigate socio-cultural and natural resource issues,” said Schneider.  “In addition to meeting with the Roanoke River Mayors Association to identify key stakeholders, we will also hold public meetings and focus groups.”

The project also involves filming on location at each of the 11 municipalities. These towns will receive access to promotional videos to help market their natural and cultural heritage.

Glen Gilbert, dean of the College of Health and Human Performance, said the project was an example of the university working in the region.

“We are pleased to be part of this cooperative venture and hope it will be the start of many with the new Center for Sustainable Tourism to promote opportunities afforded by the eastern regions of North Carolina,” he said.

Results of the project will guide the region in planning development and tourism ventures and initiatives that can create jobs and income opportunities while contributing to environmental conservation.

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This story appeared originally in the Oct. 29, 2010 issue of Pieces of Eight. An archived version of that issue is available at http://www.ecu.edu/cs-admin/news/poe/2010/1010/October-2010-Archives.cfm.