Biz Briefs: Airport serves over 1 million passengers in 2018

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BACK TO THE FUTURE: The Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce's AVL Greater process hopes to plan for the Asheville of 2040. Photo courtesy of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce

Airport breaks 1 million annual passengers mark

In 2018, 1,134,568 passengers took a commercial flight to or from the Asheville Regional Airport. Last year marked the hub’s fifth consecutive record year of growth; it is now the fourth-largest commercial service airport in North Carolina.

Passenger numbers increased by 18.6 percent compared to 2017, assisted by new nonstop routes to destinations such as Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and Tampa, Fla. A recent economic impact study found that the airport contributes nearly $1.5 billion per year to the local economy.

“One million is a milestone,” said Lew Bleiweis, executive director of the Greater Asheville Regional Airport Authority in a press release. “The unprecedented growth we have experienced in the past few years reflects the vitality of our region as a whole.”

Madison hardware store to benefit affordable housing

A new social enterprise selling hardware and salvaged building materials, ReClaim Madison, is set to open in downtown Marshall in April. The Community Housing Coalition of Madison County, which will operate the store, plans to grow into the space over three years and use it as a funding source for affordable housing advocacy and education.

Chris Watson, the CHC’s client and grants coordinator, said ReClaim Madison will also serve as a hub for community connections and skill sharing. The organization has launched a campaign to raise $165,000 in repair and overhead costs for the over-9,000-square-foot space (

NC IDEA grants available to entrepreneurs

NC IDEA, a private foundation that promotes “entrepreneurial ambition and economic advancement” throughout the state, is accepting applications for three grant opportunities. The NC IDEA MICRO grant awards up to $10,000 to young companies still validating their business plans, while the NC IDEA SEED grant offers $50,000 for upscaling “innovative startups with a proven concept.” The Investment Crowdfunding Grant provides $5,000 to companies looking to expand through a crowdfunding campaign.

Applications for the first two grants open on Monday, Feb. 11, and close Monday, March 4. Applications for the Investment Crowdfunding Grant are open through Monday, Jan. 28. More information is available at

On the move

  • Gretchen Horn, a 17-year employee of Renaissance Bookfarm, Inc., is now the majority owner of the company, which operates Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café and Downtown Books & News. She takes over from founder Emöke B’Racz, who first opened Malaprop’s in 1982.
  • Hai-yang Chen, former dean of the Lewis College of Business at Marshall University, has been tapped to fill the same role at Western Carolina University. He will fill the vacancy by outgoing dean Darrell Parker effective Feb. 1.
  • EXIT Realty Vistas, an independently owned and operated brokerage located in Weaverville, added Derek Hernandez to its sales team.
  • Weichert, Realtors – Unlimited in Asheville added brokers Louie HarperJonathan Buchsbaum and Mac Ellis.

Round of applause

  • Swannanoa-based National Wiper Alliance and Lenoir-based Bernhardt Furniture Co. received Governor’s Export Awards from N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper, recognizing the firms’ success in increasing overseas sales.
  • Asheville-based Namaste in Nature was recognized by Blue Ridge Outdoors as the region’s Best Yoga Studio and was a runner-up for Best Outdoor Startup.
  • Anderson T. Ellis, an attorney with The Van Winkle Law Firm, was recognized as a member of the “Legal Elite” by Business North Carolina.
  • Financial technology company SmartAsset ranked Buncombe County the second fastest-growing county in North Carolina for new businesses. From 2015-18, the county’s number of businesses rose by 8.3 percent.

Share your opinion

  • The Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce seeks community input on its AVL Greater strategic planning campaign. A 10- to 15-minute survey ( asks those with a stake in the region’s future to rank “the most pressing issues in the Asheville area”; the chamber will use this feedback to inform its vision for 2040.
  • The Downtown Asheville Business Census, a joint effort of the Downtown Commission, Asheville Downtown Association, Asheville Grown Business Alliance and Asheville Independent Restaurant Association, aims to collect the latest information on local enterprises. Results from the online survey ( will be shared with Asheville City Council and other community stakeholders to help shape the local economy.

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About Daniel Walton
Daniel Walton is the former news editor of Mountain Xpress. His work has also appeared in Sierra, The Guardian, and Civil Eats, among other national and regional publications. Follow me @DanielWWalton

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