WCU helps a nearby town with marketing and economic development projects


Twenty-five banners printed at the Western Carolina University Print Shop and sewn at the Sylva Home-Tex plant have been hung in Dillsboro to entice visitors to “eat, shop, stay and play.” “The banners add some contrast to the skyline view and attract drivers along Dillsboro’s major roadways,” said Mike Fitzgerald, mayor of Dillsboro.

From left, Tom Frazier ’79 and Jason Thompson ’01
from the WCU Print Shop work with Diane Ingram from
the Sylva Home-Tex plant to create banners for the town
of Dillsboro.

The banners also serve as some of the first tangible products of the Dillsboro-WCU partnership committee’s development of a comprehensive, coordinated promotional effort for the town. When the committee convened in 2009, tourism had declined and Great Smoky Mountains Railroad had eliminated train service in Dillsboro, some of which has since resumed on a limited schedule. The idea was for WCU faculty and staff to apply their expertise to community efforts and to involve WCU students in hands-on learning initiatives that benefited the town.

In one project, hospitality and tourism, and economics faculty members worked with their students to develop and conduct surveys of the town’s strengths and weaknesses. In another, students taught business owners how to use social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter to market their businesses. Still others included designing a brochure, developing a promotional video and radio ads, hosting events on campus to raise awareness of what the town has to offer, and developing a marketing plan.

The banner project moved forward with $2,500 in funding from the Jackson County Travel and Tourism Authority. “We thought the banners were an excellent way to provide a small facelift for the town of Dillsboro and all of the hardworking merchants,” said Julie Spiro ’98, executive director of the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce.

Each of the red-bordered banners features one word – either “Dillsboro,” “eat,” “shop,” “stay” or “play” – and depicts part of the Dillsboro skyline. The artwork was designed by John Miele, an illustrator with advertising experience and co-owner of a Dillsboro business called the Golden Carp. Miele said he initially created the design several years ago for a town shopping bag, but the bags were not universally adopted. The theme resurfaced with the Dillsboro-WCU partnership and “play” was added, said Miele. Haley Medford, a WCU art student majoring in graphic design and part-time employee in the WCU Print Shop, adapted the design to fit on the banners. Tom Frazier ’79, manager of the WCU Print Shop, took the printed banners to Home-Tex, which was originally founded in Sylva more than 20 years ago as QC Apparel, to be sewn. Several were hung in time for the town’s Fourth of July celebration.

“We were able to build on – and expand – a really good idea from years ago that had never come to fruition,” said Betty Farmer, professor of communication and public relations and special assistant to the chancellor for Dillsboro. “Moreover, those banners reflect the support of the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce, the town of Dillsboro, the partnership committee, individual merchants and WCU faculty, staff and students. They are just banners, but they symbolize so much more. Bringing people together for a common purpose is what this effort is all about.”