According to the Economic Development Coalition for Asheville-Buncombe County’s most recent annual report, the coalition attracted just $20 million in capital investment to Buncombe County in fiscal year 2019-20. That figure is down nearly 40% compared to the $33 million invested in fiscal 2018-19.
In 2019, if you were to ask anyone what drove Asheville’s economy, they’d tell you beer, arts and crafts, outdoor recreation, hotels and restaurants. In short, tourism. Today, with those businesses only just beginning to ramp back up and tourists staying home, talk of diversifying Asheville’s economy is picking up.
As “congregate living settings,” migrant farmworker camps have been listed as high-risk locations for virus transmission — not just by counties throughout Western North Carolina, but by state health officials and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
During a June 24 meeting, the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority board heard a presentation from marketing firm 360i about a new advertising campaign, scheduled to start in July, designed to attract a “responsible tourist audience” to the region. Ads will target visitors whose behaviors agree with “psychographic statements” about “willingness to conform.”
While Harvest Records remains shuttered, the business has started offering curbside pickup, mail orders and the occasional local delivery as co-owner Mark Capon tries to reimagine the usual record store experience through a virtual platform.
While local and state officials with the N.C. Department of Transportation say the nearly-$1 billion I-26 Connector project remains on schedule, recent financial woes at the agency have delayed some projects in the region. And those in the know say it’s too soon to say whether the domino effects from those delays may push off the start of construction for the connector project or affect later project stages.
As confirmed by Mission spokesperson Nancy Lindell on June 11, the health system’s legal representatives have chosen not to file an objection regarding how a pre-election hearing was conducted. The National Labor Relations Board will now consider testimony to determine what nurses would be represented by the union, when the vote will take place and how employees will be allowed to cast ballots.
Management at Echo Mountain, Moog and d&b discuss various pivots to sustain their businesses during COVID-19.
Mike Diethelm, president and founder of Asheville-based SolFarm Solar Co., says a $10 million construction bond requirement for would-be bidders on the solar projects “knocks out so many local medium and small solar businesses, which we have a lot of in this town, and only opens it up to the big guys.”
The county, North Carolina’s seventh-most populous, was fifth on the state’s list of counties by number of pandemic-related first-time unemployment insurance claimants in April. Of those claims, 21.7% were from workers in the leisure and hospitality industries, while 15.6% were from the trade, transportation and utilities sector.
Tensions were high as downtown Asheville prepared for another night of anticipated protests, despite a new citywide curfew that will go into effect at 8 p.m.
After a peaceful demonstration of thousands in downtown Asheville turned violent around 10:30 p.m. on Monday evening, some attendees smashed windows and spray-painted graffiti on downtown buildings and the Vance Monument.
The region’s small farms have been rocked by the coronavirus, but community support and innovative thinking have enabled many local growers to pivot and persist as they work to find a way forward.
“Our objective is to safely and responsibly encourage travel, working hand-in-hand with our local health officials and government, as we move toward that direct invitation of visitors to our community,” said Marla Tambellini, Explore Asheville’s vice president of marketing.
As of May 25, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, there are zero confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Hot Springs. However, the town is still following statewide protocols to help flatten the curve of coronavirus infections, and businesses such as Laughing Heart Lodge have borne the impacts.
Council members will consider approving multiple incentives for projects at 11 Collier Avenue and 2 Restaurant Court. The first would receive a Land Use Incentive Grant of more than $383,000, while the second would get a LUIG of more than $289,000, as well as a $1 million loan from the city’s Housing Trust Fund.
For some store owners, the highly anticipated May 9 move of North Carolina into Phase 1 of reopening was a signal that an end to their financial woes might be in sight. Others felt the move came too soon and remained closed to protect the safety of their staff and customers.
As Mission Health begins to reopen for elective surgeries and procedures put on hold during the first wave of the ongoing pandemic, the unresolved question that roiled the community just three months ago remains: Was HCA’s purchase of Mission Health healthy for Asheville?
Funds supported with tax money from Buncombe County, the city of Asheville and the Tourism Development Authority are being managed by the nonprofit Mountain BizWorks. Because of this arrangement, government and TDA officials say they will play no direct role in determining what area businesses and nonprofits receive public dollars.
Coronavirus relief is just the latest topic in an ongoing debate over whether the Tourism Development Authority, with its mission to bring ever more overnight guests to Buncombe County, is good for county residents — or just good for the hotel industry that has controlled it since its inception nearly four decades ago.
Buncombe hotels can now host more visitors — as long as they have an 828 area code. The Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce has announced a coronavirus-inflected legislative agenda, and $5,000 micro grants are available for local startups.