ONE FEATHER STAFF REPORT
The Qualla Boundary, home to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI), is being included in a pilot program to improve rural economies in North Carolina. The CREATE BRIDGES (Celebrating Retail, Accommodations, Tourism, and Entertainment by Building Rurual Innovations and Developing Program Economies) program will feature the Qualla Boundary along with several western North Carolina counties including Jackson, Swain, Macon, and Graham in a collective known for the purposes of the program as the Mountain West NC region.
Jacob Reed, EBCI Planning Office, is the tribal representative for the Mountain West NC Partnership. Along with Reed, the following will represent the Tribe on the regional steering committee for the program: Hope Huskey, Sequoyah Fund; Sabrina Arch, EBCI Enterprise Development; Christopher McCoy, EBCI Communications; Brooks Robinson, Harrah’s Cherokee Casinos; and Kent Cranford who is representing Motion Maker Bicycles along with the Fire Mountain Trail.
“We are grateful to be selected as the pilot region for the state of North Carolina to participate in the CREATE BRIDGES Initiative,” said Rich Price, chairman of the Mountain West NC Partnership. “This unique opportunity will allow our region to take a deeper dive into these economic sectors that don’t often get the full attention of traditional economic development efforts. This collaboration between the four counties, along with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, will undoubtedly result in compelling strategies and tactics for continued growth in the retail, accommodations, entertainment, and tourism sectors for many years to come.”
The CREATE BRIDGES program itself is a pilot in three states currently – North Carolina, New Mexico, and Illinois – and was made possible by a $2 million grant from Walmart Giving to the Southern Rural Development Center who is the main facilitator.
Becky Bowen, who is managing the program in North Carolina, said in a statement, “We are excited to begin the hard work of community-engaged planning and implementation in the Mountain West NC region and hope that the processes and strategies used in the CREATE BRIDGES program there will become a successful template for recovery in the retail, accommodation, tourism, and entertainment sectors throughout the state of North Carolina. The next three years will be both a testament to the commitment of the people of the Mountain West NC region to collaborate and innovate, and a test of their resolve to become even stronger post-pandemic.”