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CREATE BRIDGES to holds civic forum in Macon County to support retail, tourism, and entertainment sectors

Last updated on November 30, 2020

The CREATE BRIDGES program is pleased to announce dates and times for a virtual public forum in Macon County. The forum provides a valuable opportunity for community members and additional stakeholders to convene, provide input, and engage in a guided discussion on how best to support the retail, tourism, and entertainment sectors.

The Macon County virtual forum will be held from 3:30pm to 5:30pm on Thursday, December 3, 2020. To sign up for the webinar, please visit The Mountain West Partnership (a group of economic development professionals in the 7 western counties of North Carolina and the Qualla Boundary) is partnering with NC State University – Cooperative Extension on the CREATE BRIDGES program, which was designed to build up rural economies that have strong retail, tourism, and entertainment sectors.

These sectors provide jobs and business opportunities that often drive rural economies. As a part of this program, our region will go through a process that is designed to raise awareness of the role these important businesses play in the local economy, determine challenges and barriers negatively impacting those businesses, and develop and implement strategies to strengthen the retail, accommodations, tourism, and entertainment sectors within the region.  This local initiative includes Jackson, Swain, Macon, and Graham Counties and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

In September 2020 North Carolina State University announced the selection of the Mountain West Region in North Carolina for participation in CREATE BRIDGES, a program designed to build up rural economies. CREATE BRIDGES was recently launched in Illinois, New Mexico and North Carolina with the help of a $2,041,330 grant from Walmart to the Southern Rural Development Center (SRDC). The selected Mountain West NC region includes Jackson, Swain, Macon, and Graham Counties as well as the Qualla Boundary.

As part of this innovative initiative, N.C. Cooperative Extension, NC State University, the N.C. Department of Commerce, the Institute for Emerging Issues, the N.C. Association of Regional Councils of Government and other state resources will collaborate to pilot a process for helping rural communities build their capacity for strengthening the retail, tourism, hospitality and entertainment sectors. These sectors, which have been particularly hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic, provide jobs and business opportunities that frequently boost rural economies.

CREATE BRIDGES provides opportunities to customize implementation according to community needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. CREATE BRIDGES builds upon Stronger Economies Together, or SET, a collaborative effort across 32 states led by the SRDC that helps rural counties work together to develop and implement an economic development plan for their multicounty region.

About the Mountain West CREATE BRIDGES Region: Jackson, Macon, Swain, and Graham counties are a contiguous region at the confluence of the Balsam, Nantahala, and Great Smoky ranges in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Southwestern North Carolina. The Qualla Boundary, home of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, is situated as portions of both Northern Jackson and Swain Counties. The four-county region is comprised of numerous small municipalities and villages that have long been appealing to tourists, outdoor enthusiasts, and second home buyers. The Town of Highlands and the Village of Cashiers are similar, high-elevation destinations on the southern escarpment of the region. The four county seats include the population centers of Sylva (Jackson), Franklin (Macon), Bryson City (Swain), and Robbinsville (Graham), with each offering unique appeal to the traveling public.

The town of Cherokee is the cultural and governmental center for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and is long noted as a vacation destination for people from the Southeastern United States and beyond. Each county has additional retail and tourism destinations such as Dillsboro and the Nantahala River Gorge, both known for whitewater rafting and exceptional dining, shopping and lodging experiences. Known as the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway, this region finds itself in need of a collaborative and adaptive planning initiative to address challenges with workforce and retention, service training and engagement, and business scalability.

Read more at: For questions regarding CREATE BRIDGES or the virtual public forum, please contact Tommy Jenkins, Macon County EDC Director at

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