U.S. Sen. Mark Warner is headed into the 9th District today, not to campaign but to brag on an $815,000 grant intended to boost outdoor recreation, downtown revitalization, and small business development in Southwest Virginia.
The grant itself comes from the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Appalachian Regional Commission and was awarded to Appalachian Spring.
Via phone today, Warner said the grant is to boost tourism, building on prior efforts, including the Crooked Road (for music) and ‘Round the Mountain (for arts and crafts).
“What always bothered me was people would go to Asheville, N.C., and they developed a whole music culture, artisans, eco-tourism area,” Warner said. “And I always felt Southwest Virginia had better venues, and just as good of artisans, much better music.”
Warner said the grant should help build more momentum and spur investment from the private sector.
“God gave Southwest Virginia some of the most beautiful vistas around,” Warner said. “People who live in cities want to get away. You can link what we’ve got in Southwest Virginiaa that others don’t. Others may have mountains, but they don’t have the rich history, the bluegrasss music, the rich Appalachian culture. There’s a whole combination here that frankly others don’t have.”
Somewhat related, Warner is headed down to Bristol for tonight’s Food City 250, which is the NASCAR Nationwide series race. Warner famously sponsored a racing truck at the track during his 2001 gubernatorial campaign, but he said he’s going today just to watch the race.
“I’m not waving the flag or doing the greetings or anything like that,” Warner said. “It’s the difference between being governor and senator. As governor I got to drop the flag. As low as Congress’s approval ratings are now, it’s probably better that I’m not out there.”
– Mason Adams