VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel Jonathan Belcher presents a ceremonial check representing the $50,000 grant award by VCEDA to the Heart of Appalachia Tourism Authority. Accepting the check is Heart of Appalachia Tourism Authority Executive Director Kitty Barker.

LEBANON, VA – October 26, 2018 — An up to $50,000 Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) grant was closed Tuesday to the Heart of Appalachia (HOA) Tourism Authority to be used to help market the seven-county, one city coalfield region for tourism purposes.

HOA was created by the Virginia General Assembly in 1993 to “promote, expand and develop the tourism industries of the region.”

“VCEDA was pleased to be able to continue its assistance to the Heart of Appalachia through this grant,” said VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel Jonathan Belcher. “Tourism has been an identified economic development sector for VCEDA for a number of years and to that end, we have assisted a number of businesses in developing their tourism-related ventures. The Heart of Appalachia grant serves to further assist those businesses through targeted marketing across a broad spectrum of platforms.”

Heart of Appalachia plans to use the funds to launch a major marketing campaign to increase tourism visitation, particularly overnight stays, to the tourism businesses and attractions in the region. The campaign concentrates on outdoor recreation products, to include the creation and development of new mapping for hiking, equestrian, biking and paddling trails that will enable new landing pages, downloadable maps and descriptive content on the HOA website to increase users on existing trails. Included in the planning is GPS mapping of the paddling and fishing opportunities in the region. Creation of new road bicycle routes with mapping and new brochures to increase backroad riding into small towns is also part of the plan. The funds will also be used to create and develop graphic design logos, commercials, brochures, website, social media and print advertising highlighting outdoor adventure tourism in the region.

“VCEDA has been so good to us,” said Heart of Appalachia Executive Director Kitty Barker.

“Our whole goal is to help market the capital improvement investment VCEDA has made and the assistance it has provided to a number of tourism-related businesses in the past several years.

“From Spearhead trails, to visitor centers, to outfitters and more, VCEDA has been there to help out,” Barker continued.

“This grant will help,” she added, “because tourism is not a ‘build it and they will come’ proposition. Many of the smaller ventures don’t have the marketing money they need to raise the awareness they need to raise for their businesses and that’s what this grant money will help us to do. It will allow us to assist them in getting people across the threshold and into those businesses, which currently support some 1,892 jobs.”

In December 2017, HOA applied for, and was approved to receive an up to $150,000 grant from the VCEDA Tourism Capital Improvement Matching Fund to be used to assist with the marketing of tourism-related capital improvements located within the VCEDA region. The funds were allocated to match $200,000 HOA received in a state budget appropriation through the Virginia General Assembly. The up to $50,000 remaining to match the General Assembly appropriation was approved by VCEDA in October 2018.

About Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority and Southwest Virginia’s e-Region: The Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority, created by the Virginia General Assembly in 1988 to enhance and diversify the region’s economy and help create jobs, markets Southwest Virginia’s e-Region and its focus on electronic information technology, energy, education, emerging technologies, and entrepreneurship. VCEDA is a unique economic development organization that manages funds for economic development projects from a percentage of the coal and natural gas severance taxes paid by coal and natural gas companies that operate in the region. Located in southwestern Virginia, the region includes Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell, and Wise counties and the City of Norton. or