McMahon to speak on balancing economic growth with protecting natural resources

Press Release

Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy

BREVARD, NC: Ed McMahon, a noted author, attorney, and resident fellow at the Urban Land Institute, will deliver a talk entitled “The Dollars and Sense of Protecting Community Character” on Tuesday, March 4th from 7-9 p.m., in the Rogow Room of the Transylvania County Library in Brevard. The event is free and open to the public. A networking event will be held from 6-­7 p.m. in the same location.

McMahon’s presentation will kick off a two-­and­-half-­day symposium about how Transylvania County can use its impressive natural, cultural and historic resources to spur economic growth.The event is part of an ongoing effort by Transylvania County officials to boost economic development in a county where half the land is protected by either the state or federal government, and where residents continue to deal with a loss of some 3,000 manufacturing jobs over the last decade.

McMahon’s session will focus on the economic, social and environmental benefits of protecting community character and the value of open space and historic resources. He will discuss a variety of tools residents can use to protect a community’s character while using that natural beauty and heritage to leverage economic development.

The event is offered by the Conservation Fund in partnership with Brevard College, the City of Brevard, the Town of Rosman, Transylvania County, the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy and the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. For more information, visit

McMahon’s talk will kick off an invitation ­only symposium, “Balancing Nature and Commerce in Transylvania County.” The event will draw dozens of leaders in fields ranging from economics and community development to public policy. Speakers will include Sharon Decker, secretary of the N.C. Department of Commerce; Pat Mitchell, director of the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center; Steve Morse, director of Western Carolina University’s hospitality and tourism program; Becky Anderson, founder of Handmade in America; Dan Gerlach, executive director of the Golden Leaf Foundation; Brad Ives, deputy secretary of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources; and several other regional and local leaders.

Katie Allen, senior training associate with the Conservation Leadership Network of The Conservation Fund, said the nonprofit has worked with more than 900 communities across the country in a similar process to find harmony between a community’s character and sustainable economic development.

During the symposium, “action plans will be developed by community members, empowering them to achieve change on the ground,” Allen said. Participants will use several case studies to explore the potential of “gateway communities.” They’ll identify and discuss distinctive characteristics of Transylvania County, learn about applicable resources and use this information to inform plans for specific projects. The goal is to chart a plan of action for the future.

“I hope there will be a better understanding by a broader cross ­section of the community about what value the public lands are to us and what they mean to us as a community in terms of economic development and in terms of taking care of those assets,” said Mark Tooley, one of the organizers and a former Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (CMLC) board member.

“I would hope that we come out of this symposium with a very clear vision as a community of what we value and what’s important to us and where we want to go in the future,” he said. “We really haven’t had that since our three major employers shut down 12 years ago.”

“It is exciting to see community leaders get behind this process and consider innovative options for future growth,” said Kieran Roe, executive director of CMLC, one of several organizations that have raised funds to make the workshop possible. “When the community sees the county’s natural and cultural resources as assets to build upon rather than liabilities hindering growth, they can begin to develop new strategies to spur the local economy.”


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