Mayors in 80 towns and cities across Appalachian Virginia today received the premiere episode of Save Our Towns, a monthly Internet video series designed to guide and inspire leaders working to build strong communities in tough economic times.

The episode introduces Mayor Kyle Fletcher, who has agreed to allow Virginia Tech to chronicle his economic-development efforts in St. Paul for a year.

Each episode also includes an "examples of awesome" feature with Whitney Bonham of the Office of Economic Development reporting from the field. In Episode 1, she shows Big Stone Gap, transformed by a production crew during filming of the movie of the same name directed by author Adriana Trigiani.

Town Manager Pat Murphy reveals more of the character of Big Stone Gap in the "three questions" segment. The expert tip, also a recurring element in the series, comes from Randall Rose of the Virginia Tourism Corporation, who talks about the importance of advance preparation when attracting a film company. In an interview segment, Virginia Tech faculty member Emily Satterwhite of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, author of a book about fiction in Appalachia, talks about stereotypes.

Episode 1 is posted at Save Our Towns or can be viewed in this YouTube video:

 

Save Our Towns will not only showcase Virginia Tech projects in Appalachia, but it will also point mayors and other small-town leaders to resources such as case studies and funding opportunities. In addition, experts interviewed for the series will have their transcripts posted and contact information published so mayors can follow up. In addition, Save Our Towns offers an interactive feature with its "share your story" tab.

Upcoming segments will examine how Glade Spring resurrected its small but thriving downtown and the ways St. Paul plans to promote tourism. Virginia Tech colleges whose faculty members will be interviewed about their projects in Appalachia include the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the Pamplin College of Business.

"Almost a full year of preparation has gone into the launch of Save Our Towns," says Guru Ghosh, vice president for Outreach and International Affairs. "It's been exciting to bring to life Virginia Tech's commitment to Appalachia. We believe people will be amazed at the work of Virginia Tech faculty members – as well as other universities active in the region. The reception we've received so far from mayors and town managers shows that what we're doing adds value to the vital work of community revitalization."

While various ways exist to define the Appalachian region, Save Our Towns adopts the standard for Virginia outlined by the Appalachian Regional Commission.

Save Our Towns is a project of Virginia Tech's Outreach and International Affairs with assistance from many other segments of the university including University Relations and the Institute for Policy and Governance. Institute Director Max O. Stephenson Jr. of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies will lead an academically oriented Save Our Towns Summit in spring 2015 sponsored in part by the Virginia Tech Foundation.