If you identify being from Southwest Virginia, just where is that and what does it mean?
Look on a state tourism map, and you won’t find the words “Southwest Virginia” anywhere, notes Becky Nave, marketing director of the Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation.
Nave and a team of marketing experts were in Clintwood Thursday as part of a regional identity outreach and 19-county self-discovery tour and the foundation’s year-long effort to refine the region’s message. This was the first leg of a summer-long tour that began in the coal country of Tazewell, Buchanan, Dickenson and Russell counties.
Nave told those meeting at the Dickenson County Education Center that they were the mover and shakers, the ones on the front line who make things happen.
What does Southwest Virginia mean to you? How does the Southwest Virginia identity relate to you? How does it relate to your community?
Nave said they were there to listen and urged everyone to be honest and open, adding “you’re not going to hurt our feelings.”
“This is a watershed initiative,” Nave said when first announcing the foundation’s effort. “Everything from the first Crooked Road designation and related downtown revitalization project to the latest business plan competition has flowed toward this.
“And from this we’re going to send a wide and specific message. Southwest Virginia is a region of choice — for business investment, for those early in their careers, for seasoned professionals in healthcare, education, and manufacturing, for creative entrepreneurs working to start something up. There is opportunity here.”
The creative team from Arnett Muldrow Associates (www.arnettemuldrow.com) has worked on branding strategies for more than 20 Southwest Virginia communities and is on board for this project.
Over the coming months the effort will include industry focus groups, in-depth interviews, online surveys and an October presentation of creative recommendations. The result will be an umbrella message, brand and strategy with specific resources that communities and businesses can use to complement and reinforce their own specific value messages, according to the foundation’s announcement of the launch.
“We know what a special place this is,” said Foundation Chairman and Virginia Del. Terry Kilgore. “Our combined assets create a value proposition that few regions can match. Heritage and spectacular beauty; the music, craft and outdoor recreation; broadband access and major community revitalization efforts; investments in education, healthcare, and infrastructure. It all adds up to distinctive opportunity in Southwest Virginia.”
“We’re poised for great things,” added Foundation Vice Chairman and Virginia Sen. Bill Carrico, “We’re Southwest Virginia, and this is how we’re going to tell the world.”
The Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation (myswva.org) and partner organizations including The Crooked Road and ‘Round the Mountain; county and local leaders; and tourism and economic development professionals across the region are collectively furthering a decade long economic and community development strategy to build quality places and stronger local economies throughout the 19 counties of Southwest Virginia.
For more information please contact Becky Nave at 276-274-9043.