Lt. Governor Walter Dalton and Mayor Terry Bellamy joined 15 of their colleagues on the Governor’s Logistics Task Force for a meeting at the Asheville Civic Center yesterday. The Task Force is charged with helping ensure that North Carolina has the necessary foundation to remain competitive in the global economy over the long term by assessing current transportation infrastructure across the state and providing recommendations for future growth and expansion to enhance economic development prospects. Dalton chairs the task force, and it is the third time in as many weeks he’s come to Asheville to talk jobs and economic development. The members of the Task Force are focusing on the development of a strategic list of statewide priorities for continued job creation and are expecting to develop a plan to better move people, goods and information.
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.