February 10, 2007 -- Polk County, N.C. will host the first National Equine Economic Development Summit at the Foothills Equestrian Nature Center in Tryon, N.C., April 19-21. The summit is designed to bring together leaders and opinion-makers from some of the major equestrian communities from around the country to Western North Carolina to discuss economic development issues critical to the equine industry nationwide.
The summit is the first national gathering of representatives from leading American communities impacted by the equine industry. It is intended to begin a national dialog on the future of American equine communities and their role in 21st century agriculture, best practices and contemporary equine economic development.
Throughout the United States, equestrian communities are working hard to protect and preserve their strong traditions and cultural heritage by building economic and community development strategies around the horse economy. The National Horse Council estimates that one in every 35 Americans is involved in some way with horses. The 7.1 million horse owners nationally contribute over $100 billion to the U.S. Gross Domestic Product.
"We are seeing more and more communities with equine interests being challenged by creeping urbanization, and other common issues such as--managing growth emerging equine commercial interests along with juggling the interests of diversified residents now living in rural areas," said Libbie Johnson, an organizer for the event who is also a member of the United States Pony Club Board of Governors and the Polk County Economic Development Commission. "The time was right to bring these issues to the table and give area economic developers, planners and those relying on the horse economy some tools for moving forward."
Kimberly Brown of Lexington, Ky., an internationally recognized expert in equine management will be the keynote speaker. Her work in 2006 includes being a guest speaker at the Kentucky Economic Association's annual meeting, co-teaching AEC 300 "Equine Markets," University of Kentucky's first non-animal science equine course, co-authoring a paper on economic clusters in the horse industry, participating in a U.S. Homeland Security workshop to assist in the development of training programs in equine bio-security and being a guest speaker to an audience of Federal Congressional Staff Members.
The conference attendees will also be special guests at the 61st running of the Block House Steeplechase one of the more prominent steeplechase events in the southeast.