Biz in brief: Locals only in Buncombe lodging for now, Chamber releases legislative agenda

OPEN FOR STAYCATION: AC Hotel Asheville and other lodging facilities in Buncombe County may accept local guests only through the end of Phase 1 restrictions. Photo courtesy of McKibbon Hospitality

At the end of last week, Buncombe County moved with the rest of the state into Phase 1 of a plan to relax stay-at-home restrictions. At a May 7 press conference, Board of Commissioners Chair Brownie Newman signed a revised local COVID-19 emergency order that aligned the county with the strategy laid out by Gov. Roy Cooper — with the notable exception of tourism.

Cooper’s plan allows hotels and short-term rentals to operate under the same social distancing and hygiene requirements as other businesses. Buncombe, which had previously prohibited all leisure travel, is now limiting reservations to “staycations” for Western North Carolina residents with an 828 area code. Occupancy is restricted to 50%, and visitors who are not part of the same family or household cannot occupy adjacent rooms.

Those restrictions will remain in effect for the duration of the statewide Phase 1, which is currently set to expire at 5 p.m. on Friday, May 22. Fletcher Tove, the county’s public health preparedness director, said non-WNC residents could make reservations for dates beyond that point, with the understanding that Phase 1 restrictions may be extended if COVID-19 trends worsen.

Asheville Chamber releases 2020 legislative agenda

The Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce announced its 2020 legislative agenda, which it said had been guided by recent input from its members. The new list of priorities focuses exclusively on mitigating the short- and long-term effects of COVID-19 on the local business community.

As in past years, chamber staff will use the agenda to guide advocacy on behalf of the region’s economy at the local, state and federal levels of government. The new priorities include:

  • Ensure sufficient capacity and transparent, equitable distribution for COVID-19 testing and personal protection.
  • Work with the federal government to increase funding and length of repayment periods for Economic Industry Disaster Loan and Paycheck Protection Program loans.
  • Remediate and improve access to unemployment insurance benefits.

See the complete list at avl.mx/74o.

Asheville among top 10 midsize U.S. metros for small businesses per capita

An analysis of midsize metropolitan areas (population 350,000-999,999) performed by the website Construction Coverage found that Asheville has the country’s seventh-highest number of small businesses per capita. Portland, Maine topped the list with 3.24 small businesses per 100 residents.

With 12,406 small businesses (those with fewer than 50 employees), Asheville has 2.7 such enterprises for every 100 residents. About a quarter of those small businesses are in the retail, accommodation and food service sectors.

See the full report at avl.mx/74p.

Good to know

  • Now in its second year, the Asheville Impact Micro Grant will seed five new startups with grants of $5,000 each. Organized by Venture Asheville, the grant program received funding from 50 individuals, the HCA Healthcare Mission Fund, the First Horizon Bank Foundation and the NC Biotechnology Center. Applications are open through Sunday, May 17, at avl.mx/5tm.
  • In celebration of its 10th anniversary, Kudzu Brands will donate two branding packages normally priced at $10,000, one to a business and another to a nonprofit organization. Full contest rules and instructions are available at avl.mx/74q; applications close at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, May 15.
  • United Federal Credit Union virtually celebrated the opening of its Hendersonville South branch on April 27. The branch is located at 203 Greenville Highway at the Fresh Market Shopping Center.
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