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Save Our Towns Summit explores threats to local decision-making, offers ideas for small-town flair

August 25, 2016

Pat Murphy, town manager of Big Stone Gap, pauses during a Save Our Towns interview

Pat Murphy, town manager of Big Stone Gap, leans on counter with cash register
Pat Murphy, town manager of Big Stone Gap, pauses during a Save Our Towns interview on an indoor set created by the crew during filmmaking of the "Big Stone Gap" movie.

Designed for those passionate about small towns, the Save Our Towns Summit is being held at a time when many small communities refine their appeal as migration patterns show more people choosing the small-town lifestyle.

That's the context described by keynote speaker Jim Brooks, director of city solutions for the National League of Cities in Washington, D.C.

"There is this willingness to pick and choose where you want to be based on where you are in your life," he said in an interview that will be excerpted in a future Save Our Towns episode. "That’s all the more important, then, for smaller communities to figure out what they have to offer that’s special and unique."

The summit will be held Sept. 15 at the Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center. Speakers will come from organizations including the National League of Cities, the Appalachian Regional Commission, and the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.

Participants will include not just those from the target audience for the Save Our Towns internet-episodes series – mayors and town managers from Virginia's Appalachian region – but also graduate students. Other participants are leaders from state agencies and residents striving to improve their towns.

Members of the public are welcome, and exhibitors may take part at no cost other than the registration fee. Cost for the day including lunch is $75. Potential exhibitors may contact Dana Cruikshank at Continuing and Professional Education or register from the link on the summit agenda page.

The title of Brooks' talk is "Opportunities Available to Smaller Cities for Unique Success." Other speakers will focus on the arts, small-town renewal, and the importance of collaboration.

Panelists' topics include architecture-and-design as a problem-solving element, research trends, and external threats to local decision-making. Members of the RiffRaff Arts Collective are scheduled to perform.

Panelists involved in the opening presentation on external threats are T. Allan Comp, formerly with the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Surface Mining and an expert on watershed and community improvement projects in Appalachia, and Anita Puckett, director of the Appalachian Studies Program in the Department of Religion and Culture in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, who will give background on opposition to gas pipeline projects.

Exhibitors include 2-1-1 Virginia and the Virginia Tourism Corp., which offers assistance to small towns, such as helping with marketing and strategic planning. The summit is underwritten by the Virginia Tech Foundation and Outreach and International Affairs.

The Save Our Towns internet series, which won two national communications awards in 2016, will launch its third season Sept. 1 with a story about the town of Independence.

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