The Biz

A green opportunity

Brandon Meyer is a lucky man. At just 21, he's part of the Asheville Green Opportunities Training Team, a paid job training and placement program designed to give disconnected youth in the Asheville community a living-wage job in the fast growing green economy.

A new lease: Brandon Meyer, apprentice with the Cox-Schepp Construction Company Photo by Michael Muller

"We work with high-school dropouts, underprivileged teens and kids with little or no work experience," explains Asheville Green Opportunities co-founder Dan Leroy. "Brandon is part of the apprenticeship program hosted by local businesses that provide on-the-job experience."

Meyer works for Cox-Schepp Construction on the new multiuse Glen Rock Depot work site in the River Arts District. "We made sure that Brandon understood that he was part of a team here," says Russ Henningsen, Meyer's supervisor. "People counted on him to not let them down. … In reality, he's learned how to not let himself down."

During his apprenticeship, Meyer has acquired a variety of skills, from carpentry to installing solar panels. He's done so well that once his apprenticeship ends, Cox-Schepp Construction plans to hire him full time.
For more information on Asheville Green Opportunities, visit

Bailey, Szurek to lead EDC

Buncombe County Commissioner K. Ray Bailey and Biltmore Farms Chief Financial Officer Paul Szurek will head up the Economic Development Coalition for Asheville-Buncombe County for the next budget year, with Bailey as chair and Szurek as vice chair. Both already serve on the 20-member board, which is made up of community leaders from both the public and private sectors, including Buncombe County, the city of Asheville, the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Advantage Asheville campaigns.

Bailey will replace Bob Roberts of First Citizens Bank, and Szurek takes over from Bill Mance, formerly of Mission Hospitals. The EDC works to attract, create and expand business opportunities in Asheville and Buncombe County.
To learn more about the coalition, visit

PLI to hire 25 new employees

Based in Asheville, Plasticard-Locktech International, the world's largest manufacturer of hotel keycards, is holding a job fair Thursday, June 3, from 2 to 7 p.m. The company is filling 20 to 25 full-time positions in all departments, including sales, production, accounting, quality assurance and administration. The job fair will be held at the company's headquarters, 605 Sweeten Creek Industrial Park in Asheville. Full-time employees receive an extensive benefits package, including competitive wages, medical and dental benefits, paid time off and a 401(k) retirement plan.

Founded in 1988, PLI has been named to the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing private companies in the United States since 2007.
For more information about the job fair — or to receive an application and instructions on how to apply if you can't attend the fair — e-mail

Charity event a shoe-in

Tops for Shoes and the Merrell shoe company have teamed up to sponsor "Get Stuff, Give Back, Get Outside," a series of events, giveaways and charitable donations running June 7 to 12. The companies will donate 300 pairs of Merrell shoes to two Asheville United Way agencies: the Western Carolina Rescue Ministries and the YMCA's Fit for Life program. Merrell will also donate $5 to Fit for Life for every pair of Merrell shoes sold at Tops on Friday, June 11. Tops for Shoes, a downtown Asheville fixture for more than 60 years, is Merrell's biggest account in the state.

N.C. corporate boards lag behind Fortune 100 in diversity

Corporate boards in North Carolina are increasingly diverse, but they're still less so than the boards of Fortune 100 companies, according to a report from the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Law. Among the 50 largest corporations headquartered in North Carolina, only 12.3 percent of board members are female and 7 percent are minorities, according to the most recent survey by the law school's Director Diversity Initiative.

Sixteen of the boards had at least 25 percent diverse membership, the survey found. Eleven companies, however, had no females or minorities on their boards. Western North Carolina's own Ingles Markets, headquartered in Black Mountain, has a nine-member board with one woman and no minorities.
To view the full results of the survey, visit

Shuler sings Gay's praises

U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler welcomed William Gay, president and chief executive of Diamond Brand Outdoors and Diamond Brand Canvas Products in Fletcher, to a Small Business Committee hearing titled "Heroes of Small Business." The hearing, held during National Small Business Week, brought entrepreneurs from across the country to speak about their success in creating jobs and improving the economy.

"I am proud of companies like Diamond Brand who create jobs and are drivers for our local economy," said Shuler, a Democrat.

"During the past decade, our local economy has suffered because of losses in manufacturing jobs," he noted. "Diamond Brand is one example of a local business that is working to turn our economy around and bring jobs back to Western North Carolina." The company, which employs more than 140 people in its manufacturing and retail operations, works extensively with local charities, including the YMCA.

AdvantageWest honors successful entrepreneurs

As part of its entrepreneurial development program, AdvantageWest has presented two of the region's most successful entrepreneurs with awards for excellence and innovation.

John Taylor, whose businesses include O.P. Taylors toy stores in Biltmore Park and Brevard, won this year's Lone Eagle Award for excellence in innovation, financial performance and personal commitment to the business and the community.

Shortly after moving to Brevard in 1982, Taylor opened a full-service restaurant and adjacent wine store on West Main Street. He sold them in 1987 to start a new career in retail merchandising and pursue his dream of owning and operating a toy store. The first O.P. Taylors store opened in the center of downtown Brevard and has enjoyed steady growth in annual revenues ever since. Taylor later opened a second store in downtown Greenville, S.C., and recently added a third in Asheville's Biltmore Park.

Chris McCurry, co-founder of Highland Craftsmen Inc. in Spruce Pine, won the 2010 Advantage Innovation Award, a new honor presented to a business or industry in the 23-county AdvantageWest region that demonstrates corporate imagination, innovation and intrapreneurship. Highland Craftsmen designs, manufactures and sells natural architectural elements made out of reclaimed waste materials from the forest-products industry.

Former Asheville City Council member Bryan Freeborn, who nominated the company, said "Marty and Chris McCurry exemplify the entrepreneurial spirit unlike anyone I have met in the last year."
For more information about Highland Craftsmen, call (828) 765-9010 or visit

Mountain Xpress named Small Business of the Month

Mountain Xpress has been named the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce's Small Business of the Month. Founded by Publisher Jeff Fobes in July of 1994, Xpress is now distributed through 720 points in eight counties and has more than 30 full-time employees.

The paper strives to treat its readers as participants in an ongoing civic dialogue and supports and sponsors many civic and nonprofit groups and events. No one at Xpress was available for comment.

Send your business news to or call Michael Muller at 251-1333, ext. 154.


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