Bakersville and Hayesville - Homegrown Tools

Bakersville and Hayesville, NC

Updated: 2022

Two small rural communities in the mountains of North Carolina build civic infrastructure and partnerships, and boost tourism by elevating heritage and cultural assets and revitalizing downtown.

Population2020706 (Bakersville) / 387 (Hayesville)
Median Household Income2020$53,750 (Bakersville)
$25,625 (Hayesville)
Poverty Rate 202019.3% (Bakersville)
35.1% (Hayesville)
Proximity to Urban Center 60 miles to Asheville, N.C.
Proximity to Interstate Highway 30 miles
Case Study Time Frame 1995-2007
Municipal Budget 2020692,169 (Bakersville) / 223,232 (Hayesville)
Data Source: US Census, American Community Survey
View Complete Case StudyUpdated: Bakersville and Hayesville, 2022

Over the last several decades, parts of North Carolina have seen explosive growth. Hundreds of new businesses have been attracted into the urban corridor from Charlotte, through the Triad and into the Research Triangle Park. Universities and colleges throughout the state have incubated entrepreneurial activity, leading to new business spin-offs in biotechnology and high-tech industry. All of this economic activity, largely concentrated along the Interstate I-40 and I-85 corridor in central North Carolina, has created thousands of new jobs and generated millions in new investment.


Far away from the activity, in the mountains of western North Carolina, a different approach to economic development is emerging – an approach that is, in fact, redefining the term economic development. It is an approach that is rooted in rural heritage and culture. According

to Becky Anderson, executive director of Handmade in America, the challenge for small mountain communities is to create economic development strategies that are sensitive to the natural environment and that preserve the unique mountain culture. Bakersville, having recovered from a devastating flood in 1998, demonstrates how a small community can turn a natural disaster into a catalyst for reinvigorating civic and economic activity. Hayesville, using similar heritage-based approaches, enriches the story with tourism and infrastructure development.


What are the lessons learned from this story?


In small towns, community development is economic development. Both Hayesville and Bakersville demonstrate that community development projects, aimed at creating public infrastructure (both built and abstract), can lead to economic outcomes. The development of a creek walk in Bakersville has been credited with the creation of new businesses on Main Street. The mountain bike trail and Pioneer Village projects in Hayesville are intended to increase tourism traffic and provide entrepreneurial opportunities for new business development. Informal organizations and partnership development in both communities have made it possible for economic development to occur. Small projects can build momentum and partnership for facing larger challenges. The evolution of CCCRA is a perfect example of beginning with small, “low-hanging fruit” projects to demonstrate the capacity for change. CCCRA started in 1996, when a local resident named Glen Love decided to clean and paint the awnings around the Hayesville town square. This effort led to a music event on the square, which the community par layed into a number of other events and celebrations. In small towns, small steps can lead to giant strides.


Heritage, culture and history are economic development assets. Events and celebrations in Bakersville and Hayesville tend to be centered on an element of heritage. Antique cars, local cuisine and story-telling are all aspects of heritage. Each of these communities demonstrates a means for taking the local heritage from a particular region and leveraging it for economic gain, in this case tourism dollars.

Look for opportunity in adversity. In both towns, volunteer-led organizations developed in response to palpable economic hardship. BIG (in Bakersville) came together and gained momentum after the flood in 1998. “The flood in 1998 brought the citizens of Bakersville closer than ever before,” Mayor Vines said. CCCRA (in Hayesville) was at least a partial response to the dramatic up-tick in retiree and vacation home development.


Small groups of committed residents can jump-start development in small towns. Both BIG and CCCRA are ad-hoc volunteer organizations that, over time, have become the primary drivers of economic development in their respective communities. Both organizations started with a small group of committed residents willing to volunteer time toward making something happen in their community.