Biz Briefs: State of Our Workforce results anticipate local hiring boom

Advanced manufacturing
BOOM TOWN: Western North Carolina's manufacturing sector could hire more than 7,500 workers over the next three years, according to new survey results from the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce. Photo by Brian McCord courtesy of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce

Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce releases State of Our Workforce results

More than 720 employers across Western North Carolina have shared their outlook on job growth, local talent and hiring challenges through the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce’s State of Our Workforce survey. Respondents came from 10 counties and industries ranging from retail to information technologies.

Nearly 67 percent of surveyed businesses expected to grow their workforce over the next three years, representing up to 26,700 new jobs for the region. The manufacturing and hospitality industries anticipated the largest hiring booms — up to 7,556 and 6,618 jobs, respectively — but all sectors planned for at least some expansion.

These potential gains equate to a 7 percent increase in the area’s workforce. “We are glad to see employers are growing in trend with our growing population but we also have to figure out how to attract new talent to our region and tap into untapped populations in our region in order to fill these positions,” said chamber project manager April Brown in a press release.

The full results of the survey are available online (, as is a chamber explainer article (

Henderson County launches manufacturing apprenticeship program

Beginning this spring, seniors in the Henderson County Public Schools system will have another option after graduation. Participants in the Made in Henderson County Manufacturing Apprenticeship will gain paid work experience at one of four local companies while earning a tuition-free mechatronics engineering certificate from Blue Ridge Community College over three semesters.

Elkamet, WestRock, Meritor and GF Linamar have agreed to take apprentices and will guarantee a job offer for all who complete the program. In a press release, Wendy Frye, director of high schools for HCPS, called the initiative “a perfect example of our community partners working together in support of our students.”

Program kickoff events are scheduled at Blue Ridge Community College on Wednesday, Feb. 13, at 5:30 p.m. and Saturday, March 16, at 10 a.m. The participating companies will also be offering tours in late spring for interested families. Applications for the program are available online ( and must be completed by Monday, April 1.

WNC real estate sales slow as prices increase

Local real estate company Beverly-Hanks released its end-of-year 2018 Real Estate Market Report, analyzing trends across nine Western North Carolina counties. Neal Hanks Jr., the firm’s president, said that the number of homes sold in the region during 2018 increased by only 2 percent, a figure he called “relatively flat,” but added that Asheville-area home prices had appreciated by 9.5 percent over the past year.

“With no meaningful additional supply on the horizon, we expect that prices will continue to rise,” Hanks said in a press release announcing the report. “Supply concerns may dampen some enthusiasm for homeownership and will likely slow price increases.”

Hanks noted that, in Buncombe County, sales of homes under $300,000 had decreased by 15 percent over the past year due to tight supply. The full report and a video explaining the results are available online (

Round of applause

  • Business North Carolina magazine named four Asheville leaders to its NC Power 100 list: Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kit Cramer, Biltmore Farms CEO Jack Cecil, Highland Brewing Co. President Leah Wong Ashburn and Mission Health CEO Dr. Ron Paulus.
  • Dr. Chris Parsons and Dr. James M. Radford, both of Pardee UNC Health Care, were named to the Best Doctors in America.

Making moves

  • Formation PR + Brand, a public relations and branding agency focused on education, health care, nonprofit, public health and regional planning clients, is relocating from Flat Rock to downtown Hendersonville’s Seventh Avenue. The company will announce a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new location at 735 Locust St. sometime in the next few months.
  • Swannanoa-based Beacon Linens, the successor to the Beacon Manufacturing Co. founded in 1904, is reviving its Native American-inspired Beacon Blankets brand. Six designs are currently available through the company’s website (
  • The Mast General Store, a collection of retail establishments based in Valle Crucis and with locations throughout Western North Carolina, will open a new store in Roanoka, Va., in 2020.

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About Daniel Walton
Daniel Walton is the News Editor of Mountain Xpress, coordinating coverage of Western North Carolina's governments, community groups, businesses and environment. His work has previously appeared in Capital at Play, Edible Asheville and the Citizen-Times, among other area publications. Follow me @DanielWWalton

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