New tourism project taps into Southwest Virginia’s “creative” economy

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Construction is under way on Heartwood, a $16 million, 28,000-sqare-foot regional artisan center for Southwest Virginia. State officials say the facility, going up in Abingdon near the campus of Virginia Highlands Community College, will serve as a gateway for tourists who want to explore the region’s rich Appalachian culture.

Calling it “the symbol of the new economy based on heritage tourism that is emerging in Southwest Virginia,” Gov. Timothy M. Kaine predicted that Heartwood will be a cultural hub. When the center is finished by 2011, it will offer artisan galleries, maps and other information on the region’s attractions, including the Crooked Road, a musical heritage trail that has boosted the region’s tourism in recent years.

The center is expected to draw 270,000 visitors and generate more than $10 million a year in revenue for the region. It was funded with a combination of state, local and Tobacco Commission money.

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