USA Today’s second story about Floyd in recent months (the other was a less-than-stellar piece about the Crooked Road) is bringing mixed reaction when you can find someone who actually saw the article, which ran on Nov. 21. Writes Haya El Nasser, the paper’s environmental writer:
There’s only one stoplight in town. Locals want to keep it that way. Nothing moves too fast on Floyd time. That’s partly why hippies 30 or 40 years ago moved here to the heart of Blue Ridge moonshine country. Today, natives and "alter-natives," as some transplants like to be called, embrace with equal fervor locally grown fruits and vegetables, grass-fed beef, fresh milk and freshly slaughtered chickens. They revel in the ecological wonders of this 3,000-foot-high mountain town where the water is pure, the air clean and the music rich. Hot-list items in town: solar panels, wind generators, organic foods, bluegrass jamborees, clogging, wineries and artist colonies.
Ah, yes. The one stoplight town. Actually, Floyd is a one-stoplight county (or will be once again when they finish that long-delayed bridge project on U.S. 221 near Check). And it’s a hippie paradise where life is slow, ponytails abound and tie-dye is the uniform of the day. That’s the image to many. Floyd, of course, is much more than that and while Nasser managed to catch some of it, equating the area with the "Slow City" movement that began in Europe, she missed capturing the essence of the county.
"The idea applies in particular to cities bypassed by globalization," Nasser writes. "Rather than rely on age-old ways to spur the economy — more development and tax breaks for businesses that create jobs — towns are encouraged to stay small and play on their cultural and environmental strengths. Try to create a sustainable community that contributes to social equity and protects the environment. Nurture local arts and history and the purveyors of locally grown foods. Appeal to a harried society’s need to slow down and smell the roses rather than car exhaust."
Yes, Floyd is a place to slow down and smell the roses but it is not a place that spurns economic development.
The irony of the USA Today article is that some of its photos concentrated on two of the county’s larger employers — Crenshaw Lighting and Chateau Morrisette winery. They overlooked the Commerce Park on Christianburg Pike, home to Dreaming Creek Timber Frame Company and the soon-to-open Dex truck recycling operation (which the county attracted with just the kind of economic incentives that the Slow City movement abhors).
Those who want to keep Floyd simple look with disdain at the Commerce Park and chain stories like Dollar General, Family Dollar, Hardees, Food Lion, Subway and Pizza Inn but each survives in a county that is statistically economically depressed — a textbook case of supply and demand.
For Lydeanna Martin, who holds the seemingly contradictory title of Director of Economic Development and Tourism for Floyd County government, the challenge is to maintain a balance. Martin is always looking for ways to promote tourism for the county but also must seek out new businesses that might want to locate in the county — something the Slow City movement frowns upon.
She’s one of those who view the USA Today article with mixed emotions. She’s happy the area gets attention in national media but not happy that what the article says might hinder her efforts to sell the county to the outside world. A prominent photo in the USA Today article is a street sign which shows "Lazy Lane NE" at its intersection with Floyd Highway. Martin winced when she saw the photo in the paper. "I kept steering them away from that sign," she said, "but the photographer got up early the next morning and went back to it to shoot the photo."