Smyth County

Marion, Va. to present at a national conference

MARION, Va. - Earlier this week, officials with the National Trust for Historic Preservation announced Marion's Main Street staff will be featured presenters at next year's annual National Conference.

Mary de la Fe, program manager for conferences for the National Main Street Center, has invited Ken Heath and Olivia Hall to present a "crash course" entitled "Hey, We're Over HERE!!!  Getting The Word Out When You're In the Hinderlands".  "Marion is like a good number of communities across America," said Heath.  "We struggle to get our message out, especially with the distance to television markets and the fracturing of our viewing habits, so we have to be creative in finding ways – inexpensive, effective ways – of communicating with our community."

Heath is known as a regional presenter on small business development and related topics, and has a degree in broadcasting/mass communication with over 15 years in radio and newspaper.  Prior to his work with the Town, he was the recipient of two national and several regional awards for his work in the media.  Hall is an undergraduate at Eastern Kentucky University and has become a local specialist with social media, providing assistance to downtown businesses and other organizations in developing their web presence.  "Our goal," said Heath, "is to provide participants with an informative, exciting, vibrant program that will leave participants with the tools and inspiration to use the concepts as a springboard to their own success!"

This will make the first National Conference for Hall, and the fourth for Heath, who also served as a presenter at the 2012 National Main Street Conference.

"It's quite an honor to be chosen from all the proposals and the quality of professionals and presenters that make up this conference," said Hall.  "I'm excited to share our successes, and more importantly, to hear how others are succeeding, so this will be a tremendous opportunity for us professionally, for our community, and for our region, because we'll sure share everything we learn."

The National Main Street Conference is set for mid-April 2013 in New Orleans.  Main Street professionals from across the world attend this three-day event.  This year's theme is "Main Street and the Cultural Economy".  From the brochure:  "The collision of heritage tourism, the arts, and entrepreneurism on Main Street can spark a "Big Bang" – one of a thriving cultural economy. We can build an economy on the foods, music, people, stories, and traditions that make a place special. The fusion of innovative minds, dedicated hearts, and creative souls creates an atmosphere where authenticity is king and distinct assets are found in our backyards. This "Creative Economy" engages entrepreneurs, culinary artists, performing and visual artists, crafters and artisans, nonprofit organizations, museums and historic sites, filmmakers and technology startups to create new jobs, stimulate the economy, kindle innovation and new partnerships, attract talent and tourists, and contribute to livability."  To learn more about the National Trust or the National Main Street Conference, visit their website at

This will be the first trip to the Crescent City for Hall, and a return trip of sorts for Heath, who, as a first responder, was part of one of the first mission teams to deliver supplies to the area just three days after Hurricane Katrina.  "Our base camp was at the UMCOR facility in Baldwin, Louisiana," said Heath.  "From there, we delivered food, cleaning materials, and medical supplies through the bayou country, into Baton Rouge, and skirted New Orleans.  I'm so looking forward to going back to the area to see how much has changed through the rebuilding of those communities.  It's awe-inspiring to know if they can come back from such a terrible disaster, there's hope for every town in America."

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