A sad pattern repeated itself in Southwest Virginia: Companies packed up and left after depleting stores of coal, timber, and iron ore.

"Not only did the company move out, but usually they took the railroad tracks with them," Terri Fisher, coauthor of "Lost Communities of Virginia," says in the latest episode of Save Our Towns, Virginia Tech's monthly Internet video series focused on Appalachian Virginia.

Fisher, who works in Virginia Tech's Community Design Assistance Center, part of Virginia Tech's College of Architecture and Urban Studies, points out that loss of the railroad tracks left towns even more isolated. But today the landscape is different. "I think there's all kinds of hope," she says. "If you have broadband access, you can really do anything in an area. It doesn't have to be your traditional industries. You can turn your own small microbusiness into something, no matter how remote you are."

Also in Episode Five of Save Our Towns, the "Examples of Awesome" segment profiles a boot-camp style training program in Marion, where downtown vacancy rates hit a high of 17 percent in 2010. That percentage dropped to below six after 142 people took the training. New businesses sprang up, including restaurants, an antique shop, and a pet groomer.

Episode Five is posted at Save Our Towns or can be viewed in this YouTube video:

Save Our Towns is Virginia Tech's monthly Internet video series that is distributed to mayors and town managers in 80 Virginia towns and independent cities in 25 counties.

Episode Six, due out in January, is scheduled to focus on Pulaski, a town that has demonstrated resilience. Reed Kennedy of the Pamplin College of Business talks about how his students enjoyed a unique learning opportunity as they took on the job of writing business plans for a local entrepreneur.

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