Save Our Towns, a news and information video show emailed in monthly Web episodes to leaders in Virginia's Appalachian region, launches its second season today. The first episode, below, reveals Pearisburg as this year's town to follow. Virginia Tech's cameras will track Mayor Robert Dickerson as he carries out his economic development plans.

Introduced a year ago as a social media experiment to connect leaders working to improve their small towns, the project has generated more than 5,000 views on YouTube and 11,000 page views on the Save Our Towns website.

The show's most popular segment is the "Examples of Awesome" story, according to a survey of mayors and town managers. Each two- to three-minute segment focuses on an element of a town's economic-development efforts. Episode One's piece features a bridge built by students from the College of Architecture and Urban Studies in Clifton Forge. The bridge connects the central downtown area to an arts district and anchors a pedestrian-friendly park.

During the past year, Save Our Towns grew to become a multilayered project with the aim to guide and inspire its audience of small-town mayors and town managers. The website showcases Virginia Tech faculty members doing research in Appalachia and, new this year, Virginia Cooperative Extension agents working in the region.

Chronicled over the course of nine episodes in its first season, the town of  St. Paul boosted its tourism-related businesses. The "reality show" segment of the episodes also proved popular, showing scrappy Mayor Kyle Fletcher as he served as chief cheerleader of the commonwealth’s tiniest town ever to earn the Virginia Main Street designation.

Save Our Towns Summit
With underwriting from the Virginia Tech Foundation and Outreach and International Affairs, a one-day Save Our Towns summit will be held Sept. 10 in Abingdon. Speakers will include Basil Gooden, state director in Virginia of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development program, and Suzanne Morse Moomaw, director of the Community Design Research Center and academic lead for the Appalachian Prosperity Project at the University of Virginia.