The speakers all struck a similar tone in stressing the importance of investing in better roads and railway lines throughout Western North Carolina, borrowing largely from Professor Richard Florida's "megaregions" model. A "megaregion" is an economic unit that ties together geographic areas based on commercial activity rather than state boundaries. Asheville sits in the center of the Southern Piedmont Megapolitan — also known as "Charlanta" — an area of more than 20 million people that extends from Atlanta, Ga., to Charlotte, the backbone of which is I-85.
Others who spoke and delivered presentations included Al Delia, a senior policy advisor to Governor Purdue, Dr. John Bardo, president of Western Carolina University, Scott Hamilton, president and CEO of AdvantageWest, Marla Tambellini of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, Dr. Michael Smith, professor of global management and strategy of Western Carolina University, Dr. Dan Smith, transportation director of Ingles Regional Transportation Alliance, Pat Simmons of Amtrak, and Jay Swain of NCDOT.
About 50 members of the public attended the three-hour meeting, the third in a series of meetings to be held around the state.
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