The Highland Center ("the Center") was formed in 1998 when a group of concerned citizens came together to save the historic Monterey High School building, which was built in 1922 and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The founding board set out with the mission to serve as a catalyst for cultural and economic development in Highland County and its surrounding region.
Since that time The Highland Center has become a hub of community activity, housing 13 small business and nonprofit tenants; providing space for performances, art classes, and other community events; launching regional initiatives to spur the local economy; and operating programs to support small businesses, local farmers, artists, youth and more.
Highland County is the least populated county of Virginia and faces challenges common to many rural communities, including outmigration of youth and dwindling job opportunities. The Center's wide-ranging programs draw on the agricultural, artistic and entrepreneurial assets of the region to revitalize the local economy and improve quality of life for residents.
In 2015 The Highland Center completed its $3 million capital campaign and began renovating its historic building. When completed, the building will include a state of the art commercial kitchen, modern space for small businesses and nonprofits, a conference-retreat center, and a fully restored auditorium and classrooms. The building will be fully ADA accessible, energy efficient, and compliant with national historic preservation standards.
In addition to serving as Executive Director of The Highland Center since its founding, Ms. Mitchell has been a leader in a number of community organizations: chair, Highland County Economic Development Authority; member, Alleghany Highlands Agricultural Center Steering Committee; member, Board of the Shenandoah Valley Partnership; member, Highland County Comprehensive Plan review committee; co-chairman of SCORE (Counselors to America's Small Business) Chapter 427 since 2002; past president and founding member of the Virginia Business Incubation Association; owner & operator of a sheep farm in Highland County. She has managed over $6.8 million in government grants and has extensive experience in business planning, marketing and community development.
Local Food & Agriculture
· Highland Farmers' Market: Running for 17 years, the Market makes local healthy food available to all residents and accepting SNAP benefits.
· Faces of Farmers (faces-of-farmers.org): an online directory of local farmers and products in Highland and four surrounding counties.
· Commercial Kitchen: a USDA-inspected kitchen used by community groups and local food businesses.
· Regional Food Initiatives: the Center has been critical to a number of projects to strengthen the local food economy, including the establishment of the Alleghany Highlands Agricultural Center and the launch of the Allegheny Mountain Institute. The Center currently leads a four-county project to improve farmers' markets as well as a project to brand local meat products.
· Youth Employment Program: Providing summer employment and training for local teenagers.
· Youth Philanthropy Council: A youth-administered grantmaking board run in partnership with the Community Foundation of the Central Blue Ridge.
· School Gardening Program: Providing hands-on instruction in growing and preparing healthy foods with K-12 students, run in partnership with Virginia Cooperative Extension.
· Tenants: Modern and equipped space available to small businesses and nonprofits.
· Entrepreneurial Assistance: Business counseling through professional SCORE mentors, as well as classes and one-on-one training for starting and expanding businesses.
Community & Economic Development
· Highland Inn: The Center has purchased and is raising funds to renovate this 110-year old hotel, which is the County's largest lodging facility and a linchpin of the Main Street economy.
· Highland Community Park: Currently under development, the park will preserve an important wetland ecosystem while providing recreational trails and educational features.
· Arts & Culture: Studio artists, music and dance classes, and an auditorium for cultural performances all make their home at the center.
· Retreat-Conference Center: A large component of the Center's renovation, this facility will bring new visitors and businesses to the region.
Indirect Public Support HelpIndirect public support represents revenue received through solicitation campaigns. This includes funding United Way and other federated fundraising organizations, but does not include donor designated contributions.
Earned Revenue HelpEarned revenue represents income generated in direct exchange for a product or service.Earned income includes income from government contracts.
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