Leveraging Appalachia’s Natural and Cultural Assets

Appalachia’s natural and cultural heritage assets are significant building blocks for a more prosperous future. They contribute to a sense of identity for Appalachians and provide the basis for sustainable, place-based economic development. Investments in natural and cultural assets support the outdoor recreation and tourism economies, the growth of entrepreneurial ventures, and the revitalization of the Region’s downtowns. ARC also supports long-term, strategic investments that seek to capitalize on local assets and leverage partnerships to stimulate economic activity throughout the Region. In Fiscal Year 2020, ARC invested nearly $6.4 million in 23 projects which leverage the economic potential of Appalachia’s natural and cultural heritage. Developing trails, the arts, and downtown ecosystems are all critical economic drivers.

Learn more about ARC’s Investment Process.

Outdoor Recreation

Appalachia’s forests, parks, water, and mountains anchor the Region’s outdoor recreation sector. Offering biking, hiking, off-roading, paddling, and wildlife viewing attracts visitors to the Region and creates job opportunities. Connecting rural communities with trails and guiding visitors into small towns boost local tourism, increase tax revenues and expand existing business and new start-up opportunities.

Appalachia’s Cultural Heritage

Investments in Appalachia’s art, music, cuisine, stories, and cultural heritage have created job opportunities in some of the Region’s most isolated and distressed communities, becoming a catalyst for greater economic activity at the local level. Cultural tourism is a growing economic engine and brings visitors into small towns to shop, eat, play, and sleep.

Developing Tourism Ecosystems

Visitors are only one part of the tourism ecosystem. Thriving tourism ecosystems include entrepreneurs, marketers, local businesses, and a flexible workforce, all creating opportunities in hospitality, outdoor recreation, and related local business.

Revitalizing Appalachia’s Downtowns

Appalachia’s downtown communities are rich in history and heritage, yet many lack the resources needed to attract private investment and grow the local economy. Downtowns are often the heart of the community—they are home to many of the Region’s small businesses and entrepreneurs, and serve as focal points for residents and visitors by providing a robust mix of shopping, dining, entertainment, and community services. ARC supports downtown revitalization projects that identify an economic vision and implement strategies for attracting new economic development. These investments range from upgrading pedestrian and bicycle access, façade improvement programs, and comprehensive planning efforts that encourage business growth and promote tourism.

Investments in Action

Gateway Communities Initiative

Appalachia’s gateway communities — towns bordering national and state parks and forests– balance their need for economic growth with their interest in preserving the surrounding natural ecosystems, landscapes, and cultural heritage.