Smith River Small Towns receives $500K Harvest Foundation grant award

Smith River Small Towns receives $500K Harvest Foundation grant award

November 29, 2017

The Smith River Small Towns Business District Revitalization Project is moving forward with a $500,000 grant award from The Harvest Foundation. The grant funding will be used primarily for exterior building renovations in the town centers of Bassett and Fieldale.

“We are delighted to invest in the Smith River Small Towns Collaborative as the vision created by so many passionate residents is already revitalizing the once thriving towns of Bassett and Fieldale,” said Allyson Rothrock, president of The Harvest Foundation. “Entrepreneurship opportunities and tourism efforts will continue to grow and thrive, and at the same time will encourage young and talented minds to take a look at the pristine beauty and opportunity that lies at our feet.”

The revitalization project sparked new interest and excitement in the Bassett and Fieldale business districts with the reopening of the Fieldale Recreation Center & Pools, new events at the Bassett Depot, and record attendance at cruise-ins and festivals, according to Tim Hall, Henry County administrator.

“This project complements improvement efforts already made by local businesses and community groups,” Hall said. “We’re making good use of the historical, cultural and natural assets Bassett, Fieldale and the surrounding areas can offer the rest of the community and region. We don’t want this area to be the ‘best kept secret’ any longer. The Smith River Small Towns geographic footprint is a destination with unique tourism opportunities. We want to share those resources with everyone.”

Sarah Hodges, tourism director for Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp., will work with community groups and individuals in the Smith River Small Towns area to develop effective ways of marketing the area to the region.

“We’re working to get signage and logos out into the community that showcase the beauty and appeal of the Smith River Small Towns community,” Hodges said. “We’re selling custom T-shirts with the ‘Sawdust & Lint’ logo, and we’re working together to identify attractions for wayfinding signage. We’re extremely excited for the future of Bassett, Fieldale and the surrounding areas.”  

Bassett Furniture Industries and Eastman Chemical Company, along with Greater Bassett Area Community and the Fieldale Heritage Committee, have given financially and provided volunteers to improve exterior buildings, enhance driving corridors, and provide outdoor activities and community events for the public to enjoy.   

“Two of our largest and most valued employers, Bassett Furniture and Eastman Chemical, call this area home, Rothrock said, “and as they continue to grow, we hope the investment will assist in their efforts. Without the commitment of many, including the County of Henry employees that have lent their expertise to the project, this revitalization effort would still be a dream. The Harvest Foundation is honored to be part of the partnership and the investment.”

This project aligns with The Harvest Foundation’s strategic goals in economic development of investment and advocacy. Improving marketability of the Bassett and Fieldale town centers will encourage community investment, partnerships and community pride, according to Rothrock. It also will allow local businesses to attract the large number of tourists who travel to Philpott Lake and the marina.

The Smith River Small Towns Business District Revitalization Project Management Team works with the Smith River Small Towns Collaborative, first convened in 2013, under the leadership of Jeb Bassett and Bill Adkins. The collaborative’s role is to identify the area’s assets and potential projects, and to establish priorities and an action plan for the communities of Bassett, Fieldale, Stanleytown and Kohler.

The first phase of the project is projected to be completed by summer of 2018.

Partners involved in the revitalization project include the Smith River Small Towns Collaborative, Henry County, Virginia Department of Housing & Community Development, Appalachian Regional Commission, Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corporation, Bassett Furniture Industries, Eastman Chemical Company, local Garden Club of Virginia, Dan River Basin Association, and The Harvest Foundation.


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