Transportation Leaders from Across the Southeast Convene in Asheville to Discuss Ways to Spur Economic Growth Wednesday, August 21, 2013

RALEIGH — Transportation leaders from across the Southeast will convene in Asheville, Aug. 24-28, as the N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) hosts the annual meeting of the Southeastern Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (SASHTO).  This year’s theme is “Transportation. The Driving Force of a Strong Economy.”  Representatives from 12 state departments of transportation and Puerto Rico, as well as local and federal transportation agencies and private-sector companies, will gather to exchange ideas and best practices on the topic through a series of information sessions and panel discussions. Each state is required to host the conference every 13 years and to have its transportation secretary serve as SASHTO president that same year. 2013 is North Carolina and Secretary Tony Tata’s turn in that rotation.

About 1,000 visitors are expected to travel to Asheville for the conference, and organizers are partnering with many area businesses to help boost the local economy.

“Everything we do is about investing in our people and our state, providing greater connectivity and increasing economic competitiveness,” said Tata. “This is an important opportunity to work closely with other states, learn from each other, and look for better ways to enhance our country’s transportation network.”

Governor Pat McCrory will join Secretary Tata for the SASHTO 2013 opening kickoff with a focus on team work and strong collaboration among government agencies on Monday, Aug. 26, at 8:30 a.m.

Other featured speakers include:

• N.C. Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker
• N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary John Skvarla
• Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez
• AASHTO (American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials) President Mike Lewis.

The 2013 SASHTO conference at Asheville’s Omni Grove Park Inn  features more than 20 professional development sessions in the areas of transportation and economics, efficiency and excellence in project development, and excellence in service delivery.  Awards will also be presented to the winners of AASHTO’s America’s Transportation Awards.

Local Economic Impact

Based on planned events and activities, the conference will have an estimated immediate direct economic impact of more than $1 million. Additional indirect economic impacts will come from dining, shopping, the purchase of fuel and other activities.

To further support the local economy, each attendee will receive SASHTO dollars, funded entirely through conference receipts, which are redeemable at local merchants just like cash. SASHTO 2013 partnered with the Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau and local merchants to offer the program at nearly 80 local businesses. NCDOT was the first state to offer the dollars when it hosted the conference in Asheville in 2001 as a way to encourage visitors to shop locally. Other host states have since offered the program.
The SASHTO 2013 Committee also partnered with the Asheville Grown Business Alliance to provide delegates a Love Asheville - Go Local card, which offers additional discounts at more than 350 local businesses, including restaurants, shops and boutiques.

Supporting Education through SASHTO

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the 800 Go Local Cards purchased by SASHTO organizers was donated to the Asheville City Schools Foundation.. This independent nonprofit supports students by funding teacher-led professional development grants, artists in residence, after-school enrichment, and scholarships for graduating seniors. Proceeds from SASHTO helped pay for the completion of the Hall Fletcher Mural Project at Hall Fletcher Elementary in Asheville.
“Hall Fletcher Elementary has long been one of the poorest schools in the city, and the mural project was part of an ambitious community effort to uplift the students and support the staff,” said Erica Bell, director of development for the Asheville City Schools Foundation. “SASHTO was the first convention to purchase Go Local cards, and we are so thankful. The proceeds from their purchase enabled us to complete the mural project, which we hope will inspire thousands of future students.”
Since 2002, SASHTO has invested in academic scholarships to encourage students going into the fields of civil engineering or environmental studies. This year, SASHTO is providing a total of $195,000 in scholarship funds to member states; NCDOT is receiving $15,000 of these funds. The money will provide a total of 27 student scholarships distributed amongst the seven state universities that offer degrees in civil engineering or environmental studies — N.C. State; UNC-Charlotte; N.C. A&T; Elizabeth City State; North Carolina Central; UNC-Asheville and UNC-Wilmington.

More about SASHTO

The annual SASHTO conference is funded entirely through sponsorship fees, tradeshow exhibitor fees and registration fees.

Each state shares hosting responsibilities, rotating every 13 years. North Carolina last hosted the conference in 2001 in Asheville.

SASHTO is one of four regional associations of AASHTO. SASHTO members include: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Puerto Rico. To learn more about SASHTO, please visit the organization’s website.

The purpose of SASHTO is to:
• Encourage a balanced transportation system within member states
• Study the various materials, methods of construction and maintenance and to discuss
    common problems experienced with transportation facilities
• Exchange ideas and evaluate programs within the aviation, highway, rail, transit and
    water modes of transportation
• Cooperate in every way possible with the U.S. Department of Transportation, the
Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Railroad Administration and the Federal Transit Administration in the consideration of transportation problems
• Support legislation for the purpose of protecting capital investments in current
    transportation systems and for improving transportation programs.

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