NEWS DESK (extras)

AND IT BEGINS: The ski season got off to an early start this year, ushered in by a burst of cold air that allowed Western North Carolina resorts to make snow.

Ski season gets an early start

A burst of cold weather allowed some of Western North Carolina’s ski areas to open early this year.

Sugar Mountain Resort in Banner Elk was the first in the region to offer skiing and snowboarding this year, with the lifts starting to operate Nov. 13. Cataloochee Ski Area in Maggie Valley, just a 45-minute drive from Asheville, opened the next day. At this writing, Appalachian Ski Mountain in Blowing Rock and Beech Mountain Resort in Beech Mountain were hoping to open soon.

Snow sports are a big business in WNC. According to the latest figures available from the North Carolina Ski Areas Association, the industry contributed $146 million to the regional economy during the 2009-10 season.

In liquidity crisis, Mountain BizWorks director resigns

Amid funding challenges, Mountain BizWorks CEO Shaw Canale has stepped down from her post, a job she’s had since 2009.

“Put simply, we’re in a liquidity crunch,” says Eileen McMinn, board chair of the local nonprofit. “We’re looking for a structural solution rather than a temporary solution.”

Mountain Bizworks has served as a valuable local resource since it opened in 1989, helping small businesses start, grow and create jobs through loans, classes and coaching opportunities. The current crisis is, in part, the result of the organization’s failure to obtain a federal Community Development Financial Institutions Fund grant it was expecting to to get.

“Not getting this recent grant has sort of enlightened us to the need to do a little bit of soul searching, so to speak, into our financial operations,” says McMinn. “That may involve some decision making in terms of how we go forward with a sustainable model and continue to promote our mission, which we all continue to believe very strongly in.”

McMinn notes that the organization’s board is still “in the process” of determining if any other personnel or service changes need to be made. In the meantime, for those currently enrolled in classes or other programs, “We’re conducting business as usual,” she says. “There are no commitments that we currently have that will not be fulfilled.”

McMinn also emphasizes that, in one form or another, the organization will carry on.

“I have every confidence that the board and staff — with a lot of hard work and a few difficult decisions — will turn this situation around and continue Mountain BizWorks’ legacy,” she says.

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About Jake Frankel
Jake Frankel is an award-winning journalist who enjoys covering a wide range of topics, from politics and government to business, education and entertainment.

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