VCEDA Board Approves Grant to Heart of Appalachia Tourism Authority to Market Region’s Tourism Assets

VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel Jonathan Belcher presents a ceremonial check for up to a $150,000 grant to Heart of Appalachia Tourism Authority’s Executive Director Kitty Barker. The tourism authority plans to use the funding to implement an aggressive marketing campaign to increase visitation to the region.

The Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) closed Jan. 11 on up to a $150,000 grant to the Heart of Appalachia Tourism Authority (HOA) to assist with the marketing of tourism related capital improvements located within the coalfield region’s seven counties and one city. The VCEDA board approved the grant from the VCEDA Tourism Capital Improvement Matching Fund at its Dec. 21 meeting.

Heart of Appalachia plans to use the funding to implement an aggressive marketing campaign to increase visitation, said Kitty Barker, HOA executive director. The proposed marketing campaign will center on powersports, outdoor recreation, music and arts, the creation of new collateral material, and an increase in search engine optimization and social media, and a primary focus of the marketing campaign will be off-road trail users and motorcycle and sports car users,” said Barker.

“We are pleased to approve these marketing dollars to help the Heart of Appalachia Tourism Authority to increase the marketing of the tourism assets in our region and assisting tourism entrepreneurs and tourism industry businesses to increase the number of visitors traveling to the region and spending money at lodging, restaurants, retail and attractions,” said Jonathan Belcher, VCEDA executive director/general counsel.

The marketing campaign will be in support of tourism destinations such as the Spearhead Trails (ATVs) and the Appalachian Backroads initiative (motorcycles/sports cars) with a goal of increasing the number of permits, room nights, meals, and tickets sold in the area, Barker added

“Tourism is an important industry target in the coalfield region, and VCEDA has been supportive of that over the years, approving funding for numerous projects throughout the coalfield region, including Spearhead Trails, the Ralph Stanley Museum, the Historic Crab Orchard Museum, the Raven Theater and Coal Museum, the Southern Gap Visitors Center and others.”

Jonathan Belcher, VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel

To read about the HOA grant.

Stone Mountain Adventures Receives VCEDA Seed Capital Matching Grant

Jonathan Belcher, VCEDA executive director/general counsel, second from left, presents a ceremonial check representing seed capital match grant funding to Stone Mountain Adventures LLC owner Neil Walker. Also pictured are Tim Blankenbecler, director of the Mountain Empire Community College Small Business Development Center, left; and Beth Walker, kneeling, right.

A Norton, Va., area couple, Neil and Beth Walker, have opened an outdoor adventure tourism company dedicated to helping tourists in the Wise County and Norton, Va., areas find their way and the equipment they need to bike, boat, kayak and tube to enjoy the great outdoors. Their new business, Stone Mountain Adventures, was recently approved by the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) for up to a $15,000 Seed Capital Matching Grant.

The new company will offer the equipment needed for a variety of outdoor adventures in the Norton area, the transportation to get there and the guide – if desired — to ensure visitors experience what the Southwest Virginia outdoors have to offer.

Fourteen mountain bikes, available for rent in four-hour, eight-hour and all-day increments; three paddle boats; three pedal-powered Go-Karts, 14 kayaks; and 12 innertubes make up the equipment available. Guided tours are also available and include a guide for a four or eight-hour trip.

The business projects up to five part-time jobs.

“We expect our primary customers will be people looking to get out into nature and have an adventure,” Walker says. “We will offer hiking, biking, kayaking and tube tours of local attractions like the Devil’s Bathtub, the Clinch and the Guest Rivers, Guest River Gorge, Appalachian Rail Trail, Little Stoney Falls, Flag Rock and High Knob.”

“VCEDA was pleased to be able to approve the seed capital funding for the Stone Mountain Adventures project. VCEDA has been supportive of a variety of tourism-related projects in recent years as our region diversifies its economy in this sector and pursues the many opportunities found in the development of tourism in the region.”

Jonathan Belcher, VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel

Read more about Stone Mountain Adventures.