Create Academy and Business Resource Fair in Mountain West Region

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Resource Fair flyer imageThe Mountain West Region will be hosting a CREATE Academy and Business Resource Fair on September 22, 2021. The all-day event will commence at 10 a.m. and be held at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort in Cherokee, NC. It will feature institutions, agencies, nonprofit organizations, and foundations that offer technical assistance and financial support to businesses in the retail, accommodations, tourism, and entertainment sectors. Business owners, managers, and employees of these sectors are invited to meet and greet the many area resource providers who support them.

From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the same location, the public is invited to attend the CREATE Academy, a major milestone of the 2 ½ year CREATE BRIDGES initiative. The Mountain West Region, which consists of Jackson, Swain, Graham, and Macon Counties, and the Qualla Boundary, was named the North Carolina CREATE BRIDGES region by NC State University in September of 2020. Since that time, the region has hosted several virtual public forums and conducted surveys of area businesses and their employees to determine both the strengths and the challenges of the retail, accommodation, tourism, and entertainment industries (the “CREATE Businesses”) in the region. The initiative is led by a regional steering committee comprised of business and agency leaders and chaired by Russ Harris of the Southwestern Commission and Rich Price of Western Carolina University.

The CREATE Academy will include a presentation from 11 a.m. to Noon on the research findings of the NC State Extension team on the state of the region’s Create Businesses and their employees. A complimentary light lunch will be served, then from 1 to 3 p.m. attendees will have the opportunity to engage in the initial stages of a planning process intended to strengthen these businesses and their workforce.

“The Mountain West Region is home to small towns and cities described as Gateway Communities,” says Becky Bowen, CREATE BRIDGES Project Manager at NC State Extension. “The region is a gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains and other natural amenities, and as such, it has become a popular place to both live and visit. The hospitality and tourism industries drive the region’s economy. However, the low-paying and seasonal nature of work in these sectors definitely impacts the ability of businesses in these gateway communities to attract and retain a reliable workforce. In addition, there is tremendous pressure in gateway communities on the availability of affordable housing stock. In short, the options to find a place to live for these workers are limited and expensive. And the pandemic has only made things worse.”

Bowen continues “The purpose of the CREATE Academy is to learn about how these businesses and their employees are currently doing as well as develop strategies to create more opportunities for them.”

Registration to attend the CREATE Academy is free, and a light lunch will be served to attendees. The Business Resource Fair will run concurrently and will be open and free to the public from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

For more information, contact Becky Bowen at or 919-628-4317.

Register for the CREATE Academy and Business Resource