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Corridor K: Beyond the road

Though the Corridor K debate was the impetus for the Opportunity Initiative Study, Opt-In wasn’t all about transportation. The results of the year-long regional visioning study has been enlightening, unifying and awash with great ideas to improve the area’s economic and cultural landscape, said Ryan Sherby, executive director of the Southwestern Commission Council of Governments. 

“We know that our counties are going to have a hard time competing individually in this new global economy,” Sherby said. “We’ve been trying to coordinate some of our economic development activities already.” 

Through doing the study and coming up with a regional vision, the counties have agreed that they’re in favor of continuing to work together, coming up with a regional brand and working toward regional goals to improve their collective economic lot. Marketing to attract tourism is one element of that, but other, less hackneyed ideas have come out, too. 

•For instance, starting an angel investor fund to attract businesses. Through the study, Sherby said, it came out that small technology companies or advanced manufacturing companies might be great fits for the region. But sometimes people with great ideas have a hard time getting started. One thing the Southwestern Commission would like to get started on is cultivating a group of investors willing to fund the business ideas they feel are most viable. Like the TV show “Shark Tank.”

“That’s like a Hollywood version of an angel fund,” Sherby said. “We are at the very early stages of running a feasibility study.”

•Though a full-fledged hospital might not be economically viable for Graham County, a cooperative urgent care center could be just the ticket. That’s an idea that’s been talked about for a while, but by leveraging the skills and interest of newly united people from around the region, it could become closer to reality. 

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•For a region to grow, there have to be places for move-ins to live. Right now, there aren’t a lot of options when it comes to apartments or townhouses suitable for singles or couples without children. Courting developers who are interested in making those dwellings a reality will also be a challenge for the future. 

“We have to almost sell these projects the private sector now,” Sherby said. 

•When it came to transportation, Corridor K was obviously the focal point. But alternative forms of transportation were also in high demand. People in WNC are asking for increased walkability and bikability.

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