For many years, Southwest Virginia has struggled as the coal industry shrank and much of the manufacturing sector left the region.

But now, Southwest is making a comeback.

In the last decade, tourism expenditures have gone up almost 50 percent. That spending has generated a 23 percent increase in local tax revenue.

No longer is this a region tied to coal and manufacturing and agriculture. Wendy Wasserman at the Appalachian Regional Commission says a network of institutions and organizations have shown that this region can support entrepreneurial efforts beyond a local economy dominated by a few major employers.

“And they’re looking at a couple of sectors that really spark people’s interest and passion and culture,” Wasserman says. “So that’s things like music and art and tourism and cultivating a creative economy that allows bright ideas to flourish.”

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