The Biz: WNC business briefs

Meet The Geeks Meet-Up Jan. 28: Meet the Geeks, the Asheville-based network of 500-plus IT professionals, will hold its first social event of the year Wednesday, Jan. 28. They’ll convene at Scully’s bar and eatery (13 W. Walnut St. in downtown Asheville) from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Membership in Meet the Geeks is free, and anyone with an interest in IT endeavors is welcome. Jenny Manner, the group’s board chair, says the event will celebrate MTG’s expansion in 2008 and will introduce Benjamin Teague, recently hired by the Economic Development Coalition for Asheville-Buncombe County to serve as senior vice president of economic development.
For more on MTG, visit www.meetthegeeks.net.

Downtown Merchants Networking: Russell Thomas, owner of the Flatiron Building in downtown Asheville, recently launched the Flatiron Network Alliance—informal, twice-weekly gatherings of downtown residents and merchants where they can connect with one another and seek solutions to the economic downturn. The meet-ups, which offer free snacks along with a cash bar, take place Thursdays and Fridays from 5 to 8 p.m. in the building’s main lobby off Battery Park Avenue.

“We’re trying to put together a bunch of downtowners who are committed to saying, ‘Hey, I’m for Asheville. I want to do anything I can do to make Asheville work,” Thomas explains. “We want to create kind of a ‘Team Asheville.’”

So far, the gatherings have brought in a small but enthusiastic crowd. Russell hopes to grow the network in the spring, expanding the get-togethers out onto the sidewalk. He’s also planning to bring in a team to produce video testimonials concerning what’s vital about downtown, to be posted on his Web site (www.asheville-nc.com). “The concept is not so much to sell the businesses,” he explains, “but to sell the people as what makes Asheville unique.”

A Think Tank For Tough Times: Mountain BizWorks, the Asheville-based nonprofit that buoys local entrepreneurs and businesses with training, loans and other services, has announced the creation of a new think-tank-style project that aims to “help your business succeed during these tough economic times.” A panel of BizWorks staff members and local business owners will launch the endeavor with a discussion and Q&A session Thursday, Feb. 12, from noon to 2 p.m. at the organization’s office (153 S. Lexington Ave.). (RSVP by Friday, Jan. 30: 253-2834.) The session is free for BizWorks members, $5 for nonmembers. Drinks and dessert will be provided, but bring your own lunch.
Visit www.mountainbizworks.org for more information.

Census Is Hiring: A newly opened U.S. Census Bureau office in Asheville is gearing up for the 2010 census by doing “an incredible amount of hiring,” notes Office Manager Sharon Lewis. How much hiring? Lewis says she’ll need more than 1,000 WNC residents to begin canvassing in 26 counties next month. The full- and part-time positions range from office clerk to canvasser to crew and operations supervisors; the office also pays for training and mileage. People from all walks of life are sought for the work, and the office aims to hire folks to work in their own communities.

“We are especially interested in historically undercounted populations” such as the Hmong, Cherokee, Slavic, African-American and Hispanic communities in this part of the state, notes Lewis.
To learn more about the jobs and how to apply, call the Asheville office toll free at (866) 861-2020.

Main Ramps Up Strategic Plan: The Mountain Area Information Network has big plans for 2009: The Asheville-based nonprofit Internet provider was recently awarded two sizable grants to expand on its “broadband advocacy and to develop community journalism,” according to MAIN news release. Wally Bowen, the organization’s executive director, will present on “MAIN 2.0: Next Generation Community Network” at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 4, in Pack Memorial Library’s Lord Auditorium in downtown Asheville. Also speaking will be Megan Tady, campaign coordinator of the national “Internet for Everyone” campaign. In the release, Bowen calls the network he envisions “a powerful new online organizing and advocacy platform” for local nonprofits and civic groups and an “advanced networking platform for locally owned businesses and green enterprises.” In addition to expanding its ISP operations, MAIN plans for to push for mobile broadband capability. For more information, visit www.main.nc.us or call 255-0182.

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About Jon Elliston
An Asheville-based mountain journalist: Former Mountain Xpress managing editor. Investigations and open government editor at Carolina Public Press. Senior contributing editor at WNC magazine.

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