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Commission workshop to concentrate on tourism

LIVINGSTON-Black Belt leaders will once again come together at the Bell Conference Center on the campus of the University of West Alabama for a different kind of meeting. While most gatherings have been geared toward grant writing and funding this meeting will concentrate of utilizing arts, culture and heritage to develop tourism.

The event will run for two days beginning at 9 a.m. Tuesday with registration and ending at 1 p.m. Wednesday with an open forum to discuss how leaders can collaborate to make tourism an economic engine in the Black Belt.

Martha Whitson, Administrative Specialist for the University Center for Economic Development, said the meetings would open an entirely new avenue for fundraising to the Black Belt.

“We decided to have this meeting to focus on the Alabama Tombigbee counties to help them understand the importance of tourism,” Whitson said. “So far we have had a good response. We have some very good speakers from all over and look forward to a great attendance.”

Nisa Miranda, director of the University Center for Economic Development, said there is a great deal of potential in the area that could be tapped by working together.

“Basically the entire region has a lot to offer in the way of tourism and assets,” Miranda said. “We are trying to get everyone accustomed to the fact that they have several venues that are appealing to people and they could create a system where people could plan or try to attend them. The important thing is to get them to work together and share to allow people to tour the area and not compete against each other.”

Miranda said the history of the area is so rich it would be a shame to let it go to waste. She said this history could be a major asset toward attracting people to the area.

“We need to get them to think about historic people and historic events in the areas like the burial mounds and historic gravesites,” Miranda said. “Also, they should look at genealogy for general research. People will travel to a far away place if they can find linkage to their families.”

Wednesday’s activities will include presentations by John Clyde Riggs, Executive Director, Alabama Tombigbee Regional Commission, a presentation entitled Preserving Our Culture: Folklore and Oral History by Kern M. Jackson, Director of African American Studies Program at University of South Alabama and Local Economic Development in the Black Belt through Experiential Tourism by Mary Jeanne Packer and Jeff Rowe of Fermata, Inc.

After breaking for lunch Lee Sentell, Director, Alabama Bureau of Tourism and Travel will open the meeting back up. Sentell will be followed by a presentation entitled Historic Preservation by: Alabama Historical Commission in which Alta Cassady will be the moderator Cassady will be followed by Preservation: The Best Tourism Tool presented by Brandon Brazil, Preservation Issues Coordinator and Making Preservation Work for Your Town, by Mary Mason Shell, Preservation Planner

After another short break the group will resume at 4 p.m. to hear from Elizabeth Thomasson, Director of Grants and Contracts, Virginia College on Grant Writing:

Sources of Funding to Support the Arts and Heritage

The rest of the afternoon will be spent networking.

Wednesday’s activities will begin with a program called Fostering the Arts, presented by Georgine Clarke, Visual Arts Program Manager, Alabama State Council on the Arts and Joey Brackner, Folk Arts Program Manager, Alabama State Council on the Arts. Sherry Johnston, Genealogy Historian, Evergreen Conecuh County Public Library will also provide a presentation on genealogy

After a morning break a presentation titled Scenic Byways, and Trails and Outdoor Recreational Opportunities

By Joe Watts, Scenic Byways and Paul Kennedy will be given/

The day will wrap up with presentations on ideas for a West Alabama hunting and fishing trail by Audrey Vaughn, Ex-Officio Member, West Alabama Hunting and Fishing Trail and a final presentation on attracting retirees by Bill Meadows of the Alabama Advantage, Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.

The Alabama Tombigbee Regional Commission, the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama and University of Alabama Center will sponsor the program for Economic Development