At a meeting this morning at the Asheville Chamber of Commerce, it was announced that K. Ray Bailey and Paul Szurek will head the Economic Development Coalition (EDC) of Asheville-Buncombe County for the 2010-2011 term; Bailey will serve as the new chair and Szuerk will serve as its vice chair. Both currently sit on the 20-person board, which is comprised of community leaders from the public and private sectors, including Buncombe County, the City of Asheville, the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Advantage Asheville campaigns.
The EDC’s mission is to attract, create, and expand business opportunities in the city of Asheville and Buncombe County. Bailey will replace Bob Roberts of First Citizens Bank and Szurek replaces Bill Mance, formerly of Mission Hospitals. According to the EDC’s bylaws, they are no longer eligible to serve in the posts.
The meeting, which was attended by Mayor Terry Bellamy, provided an overview of the area’s economy and painted a relatively optimistic outlook going forward as the area emerges from the most significant economic downturn since the Great Depression. Buncombe County’s unemployment rate is the now 11th lowest of the 100 counties in North Carolina, and there is reportedly an increase in manufacturing jobs in the region, according to Szurek. The number of homes sold compared to this time last year is also up by 70.5%. Kelly Miller, Director of the Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau, spoke of the millions of dollars in positive media coverage that president Obama’s recent visit to Asheville generated. Mayor Bellamy and Civic Center Director Sam Powers spoke about the city’s efforts to woo the Southern Conference into bringing its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments here to Asheville. Powers is also the city’s director of economic development.
The mayor also took the time to mention her and City Council’s unflagging support of the Pack Square Conservancy: “As mayor and as a Council, we stand behind the Pack Square Conservancy 100%,” Bellamy said.
K. Ray Bailey was elected to the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners in 2008 and is the President Emeritus of Asheville Buncombe Technical Community College, where he served for 42 years, the last 15 as its president. He’s received countless awards over the years, including The Order of the Long Leaf Pine — among the most prestigious awards presented by the Governor — and was honored in 2005 as the most outstanding president in the North Carolina Community College System. He’s also chaired the Buncombe County Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.
Paul Szurek, a graduate of Harvard University Law School, is the Chief Financial Officer of Biltmore Farms, a company originally founded by George Vanderbilt to develop sustainable forestry and agricultural practices. They are now engaged in commercial development, residential home building and hotel management and are involved in other areas of community development including healthcare, education, and promoting arts and crafts. Szurek was the guiding force behind Biltmore Park, a 42 acre planned community off Long Shoals Road.