Biz Briefs: Skill up with Blue Ridge Community College

LEARNING THE TRADE: Leonardo Zaragoza-Linares, left, and Jesus Tamayo both completed a certificate in “industrial manufacturing production technician” through Blue Ridge Community College’s manufacturing apprenticeship program. The school is now offering four new advanced manufacturing courses to prepare Western North Carolina residents for high-paying jobs. Photo courtesy of BRCC

Blue Ridge Community College is now offering four new advanced manufacturing classes to provide students with the “critical knowledge and competencies” needed to land jobs at regional manufacturing facilities. 

The new courses include machining fundamentals, industrial maintenance, certified logistics technician and nondestructive testing QA/QC. Costs for each class run $230-$306, plus required books and materials. 

Three of the new courses have been endorsed by aircraft engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney, which is building a plant in Buncombe County and is expected to employ up to 800 people. Students who complete one of the endorsed classes automatically qualify for a pre-employment assessment and an interview with the company. 

Bad for the blue-collar 

A new report by property inspection industry website Inspection Support Network found that Asheville is the 18th-worst-paying midsize metro area for blue-collar workers in the United States. 

According to the report, roughly 33.8% of Asheville workers identify as blue-collar, a status defined by ISN as working jobs that require manual labor and are often paid on an hourly basis. The median annual wage of a blue-collar worker locally is $37,433, lower than the national average of $40,000. 

Asheville is also significantly behind the rest of the country in union membership. The national union membership rate is 10.8%, compared with just 2.4% in Asheville. 

Match with mom

NEW LOOK: Mini + meep, an Asheville-based sustainable baby and toddler clothing brand, has launched a new line of “mommy + me” matching sets. Photo courtesy of mini + meep

Need a last-minute Mother’s Day gift? Mini + meep, a sustainable baby and toddler clothing brand launched by Asheville resident and mother Fay Grant, is debuting a new line of “mommy + me” matching sets.

Grant paints all pieces by hand in the Blue Ridge Mountains to inspire positivity, according to a press release. The company’s commitment to green practices and artwork that inspires nature-based play led Grant to be selected as a featured artist in the 2021 Smithsonian Craft Optimism Show

The company is also giving back to the community through a partnership with MANNA FoodBank. For every order, mini + meep will donate a meal to a child in need; to date, Grant and her team have donated over 40,000 meals to local families. 

Biz bites

  • The Education and Research Consortium of the Western Carolinas selected Asheville-based Skyrunner to expand broadband internet in Haywood County’s Fines Creek and Crabtree communities. Funding for the project will come from the Appalachian Regional Commission. 
  • The Hands of Sean Perry Co., an Asheville-based construction company, received a 2021 Guildmaster with Highest Distinction award from GuildQuality, an Atlanta-based customer satisfaction survey company. The honor marks the sixth time the company has won a Guildmaster award since 2010. 
  • Ingles Markets will host a companywide hiring fair Tuesday, May 11, to Thursday, May 13, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Interested candidates should visit any store location during those times and bring two forms of identification. 
  • Local entertainment company Asheville Terrors has purchased the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast and Museum in Fall River, Mass. Borden’s father and stepmother were murdered in the house in 1892, and the case remains one of the oldest unsolved murders in the United States. 
  • PLR Connect Events will host a free speed networking event for female entrepreneurs on Thursday, May 20, at 5:30 p.m. Register at
  • The NC IDEA Foundation has awarded $10,000 grants to 19 companies across the state, including Canine Harvest in Hendersonville and Cardstalk and GRAVITL in Asheville. Dare Vegan Cheese in Asheville has also been selected as a finalist for the foundation’s $50,000 SEED grant, which will be announced in mid-May. 
  • Let’s Choose Love, a new forum for the Asheville community, is offering grants of up to $1,000 to fund projects with a positive impact. All grants include complementary business consulting; individuals age 16-30 are encouraged to apply. For more information, visit

Open for business

  • Pedego Electric Bikes is now open on Coxe Avenue in Asheville. The store will hold a grand opening ceremony on Wednesday, May 5, with group e-bike rides, a food truck and a fundraiser for Hood Huggers International. 
  • The Southern Loft will open at the Asheville Outlets in May. The North Carolina-based boutique sells women’s fashion, gifts and home items. 
  • Asheville Storks & More opened in early April to provide personalized stork yard sign rentals to announce the birth of a child. Soon, the business plans to offer yard signs for birthday parties, graduations and other special events.

Local movers

  • Anna Marie Smith is the new chief human resources officer of HomeTrust Bancshares. Prior to joining HTB, she served in senior leadership roles at Forsyth Tech Community College in Winston-Salem and at Wells Fargo. 
  • Mark Hampshire is also joining the HomeTrust Bank team as the associate bank manager at the company’s East Asheville branch. He previously worked as a branch manager for BB&T Bank.
  • Gaia Herbs has appointed Jim Geikie as the company’s new president and chief executive officer. Geikie is also a partner in One Better Ventures, a Raleigh-based B Corp-certified investment and adviser firm. With Geikie’s appointment, Gaia Herbs and One Better Ventures have also announced a new partnership to help grow and advance Gaia’s mission. 
  • United Federal Credit Union has hired Nick Iosue as a commercial loan officer serving the Asheville area. Iosue lives in Western North Carolina and has served as a member of the N.C. Young Bankers Association, vice president of the Brevard Chamber of Commerce and treasurer of Pisgah Forest Rotary.

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About Molly Horak
Molly Horak served as a reporter at Mountain Xpress. Follow me @molly_horak

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