A new monthly episode of Save Our Towns goes out to leaders in Virginia's Appalachian region today, this one also touching on West Virginia with a look at the border towns of Bluefield. You might be surprised at the different ways the two towns reacted to overtures from Walmart.

The news-and-information video show continues its close look at Pearisburg's economic development efforts as they play out over the coming year. This month, Mayor Robert Dickerson remains undaunted about dealing with downtown's high vacancy rate.

This month's expert tip comes from Basil Gooden, state director in Virginia of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development program. He outlines what the USDA can do for small towns in Virginia, including financial investments in housing and infrastructure. Gooden spoke at the recent one-day Save Our Towns summit in Abingdon, where mayors and other town officials met with experts, faculty members from universities around the region, and representatives of state and federal agencies. The summit took place with underwriting from the Virginia Tech Foundation and Outreach and International Affairs.

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 as well as Virginia Cooperative Extension agents working in the region.

Introduced a year ago as a social media experiment to connect small-town mayors, the project generated thousands of views both on YouTube and on the resource-rich Save Our Towns website. In future episodes, the show's most popular segment – the "Examples of Awesome" story – will highlight the small town of Appalachia and the tiny town of Pocahontas.