In an effort to promote growth and a positive impact on Western North Carolina communities, GroWNC came in front of the Haywood County Economic Development Commission to showcase their project and its goals for the region.
Haywood is banding together with Transylvania, Buncombe, Henderson and Madison counties under a project titled GroWNC, designed to get the region thinking collectively about ways to develop the economy with a focus on sustainability.
GroWNC is currently holding meetings in all five counties to gain feedback on the goals and gather information about their residents, including one planned in Haywood County this week. Participants are being asked everything from what people love most about Western North Carolina to individual demographics to opinions about the program.
“It is trying to take a long-term vision of the area and see what our common issues are,” said Waynesville’s Assistant Town Manager Alison Melnikova. “It’s basically everything people like about Western North Carolina and preserving it.”
The group will focus on seven core areas: jobs and economic development; housing; natural resources; cultural resources; energy; land use; transportation; and health and wellness.
The consortium is led by an 18-member committee, which is responsible for prioritizing work activities, participating in the selection of consultants and making recommendations to guide the project. Sub-committees have been formed to address the seven specific areas.
Each of the committees has drafted a list of goals that it hopes to work toward that will promote growth and more inter-connectivity between the counties, rather than each county taking its own path.
“GroWNC better conveys our goal of growing together as a region,” said Carrie Runser-Turner, senior planner with Land-of-Sky Regional Council, a multi-county local government planning and development organization. “Really what we are trying to do is look at the choices we make in these areas (and) how they are inter-related.”
Among the goals are creating effective job training programs; exploring alternative energy options; increasing transportation choices; promoting community health resources such as gym class in schools and physical activity programs; building mixed use neighborhoods with a “sense of place;” and encouraging the development of affordable housing, among others.
The meetings being held throughout the project region are informal, allowing people to move from table to table as they wish and skip over areas that they don’t have an particular interest in. Door prizes will also be given away at the meetings.
“The participants get to shape their experience with this meeting,” Melnikova said.
A U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant was awarded to the counties for the project through the Land-of-Sky.
Haywood Community College will host an informational and feedback meeting from 4-7 p.m. on May 16 in the Charles Beall Auditorium. If you cannot attend the meeting at HCC, check out www.gro-wnc.org for other upcoming meetings and more information about GroWNC.