How to Revitalize a Small Rural Town? An Empirical Study of Factors for Success. University-Community Collaboration with a Small Historic Rural Tourism Town


  • Sandra S Grunwell Western Carolina University
  • Inhyuck 'Steve' Ha Western Carolina University


Since the 2008 downturn in the economy many small rural towns and their business owners have struggled to survive, especially if tourism has been their key economic driver. As a result, many communities are engaged in revitalization efforts to renew and restore their town to its former prominence as a viable community economically. This article examines the strategies and benefits of the formation of a university-community partnership formed to assist a small historic rural tourism town in the southern Appalachian region of the United States that has suffered significantly since the 2008 recession, and the collaboration efforts undertaken to assist town officials in revitalizing their community. The article also discusses revitalization efforts being taken by the town. Keywords: rural towns, small towns, rural tourism towns, rural development, universities-community partnership

Author Biographies

Sandra S Grunwell, Western Carolina University

Sandra Grunwell (M.B.A. Bowling Green State University) is the Program Director and Associate Professor of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Western Carolina University in North Carolina. Her recent works have explored community economic development and university-community partnerships.

Inhyuck 'Steve' Ha, Western Carolina University

Inhyuck "Steve" Ha (Ph.D., University of Minnesota-Twin Cities) is an Associate Professor of Economics and Director of the MBA Program at Western Carolina University in North Carolina. His areas of interest are spatial econometrics, community economic development and economic impact analysis.