HIA supports the establishment of town-to-town mentoring relationships that facilitate creative placemaking projects highlighting the rich and excellent regional assets and resources in craft and culture that defines each small town in the WNC region. New mentors are added to the network constantly as an “each-oneteach-one” mentorship role requires experienced leadership to reflect on their own learnings and share experiences with the new towns and new leadership within their communities. In turn, these mentors are learning more about leadership through teaching. This continual renewal is an integral piece to the HIA process of community and economic development.
Economic & Community Development:Current Programs
HandMade in America started an initiative to grow the region’s craft economy by focusing on clusters of craft mediums, from the raw manufacturing of the material, to the artists who utilizes the material and the consumer who buys the finished product. Through HIA’s craft clusters, we work to bring together all individuals, organizations and businesses in the supply chain of craft media (fiber, wood, metal, glass, clay) to strengthen the industry. In 2010 we began work in the Fiber Cluster to connect raw material producers to artists, identify gaps in the supply chain, and determine how to work together to grow this cluster. The result of HandMade’s Craft Cluster work is to encourage a local, sustainable economy in each medium. In early 2013 work will begin with the Wood Cluster. Applying two regional economic development strategies – adding value to locally harvested materials and substituting local products for imports.
The Small Towns Program created by HandMade takes a multi-faceted, asset-based approach which includes leadership development, community assessments, mentoring, technical assistance, self-help and learning from each other and from neighboring communities. Town efforts are totally voluntary, meaning no paid staff, and Resource Teams help communities identify the assets which made up their unique sense of place. HIA’s program has met with great success in communities with populations of less than 2000. HandMade’s process focuses on asset-based planning, seeking to engage local residents in identifying their natural, cultural and historic resources as the basis for revitalization.
The Small Towns Program applies community-driven methods for rejuvenating the physical and civic infrastructure of a community by utilizing an asset-based planning approach in WNC’s small towns. Currently HIA works with 13 small towns in 10 counties to connect them with funding and resources that support their projects.
HandMade engages in partnerships and collaborations with other organizations to accomplish commong goals and avoid duplication of services. Currently we partner with Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce/EDC, and Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College. Through such partnerships, Western North Carolina can become a strong, collaborative region that works together to ensure greater visibility and viability than any single organization could do on its own.