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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Southwest Virginia’s ‘Round the Mountain (RTM) artisan network has been awarded a competitive grant of $815,000 from the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Appalachian Regional Commission.
The innovation grant was awarded to Appalachian Spring, a creative economy initiative through the Friends of Southwest Virginia in partnership with the region’s planning district commissions, People Inc. and Virginia Community Capital, according to a press release from U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA).
The grant will help with economic development, particularly related to outdoor recreation, downtown revitalization and small business development, Warner said. It will provide technical assistance to small businesses in the region that are engaged in the arts, outdoor recreation, local foods and broadband service delivery.
‘Round the Mountain (RTM) will serve as the fiscal agent for the administration of the grant, which will support community development efforts in all 19 counties and four cities of Southwest Virginia. The artisan network includes the City of Galax and Carroll and Grayson counties.
‘Round the Mountain was started in 2004 by then-Governor Warner as part of an effort to further develop Southwest Virginia as a cultural and heritage tourism destination, according to the press release. RTM works with The Crooked Road music trail, the Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation and Friends of Southwest Virginia on efforts promoting sustainable economic development.
“Eight years after we launched this network during my term as governor, it is very gratifying to see how ‘Round the Mountain, The Crooked Road and the Heartwood Artisan Gateway and others have helped to leverage local cultural assets and diversify Southwest Virginia’s overall economy,” Sen. Warner said in the press release. “This competitive grant should serve as a catalyst for additional private investment and job creation.”
Todd Christensen, executive director of the Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation, said the grant will enable the foundation “to fulfill its mission by working with our partners in local, regional, and state government to go to the next level in developing a creative economy in Southwest Virginia.”
The $815,000 grant awarded Wednesday includes $500,000 from the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration, $215,000 from the Agriculture Department’s rural broadband program and $100,000 from the Appalachian Regional Commission.