Under blue skies and using the award-winning Early Girl Eatery on Wall Street in downtown Asheville as her backdrop on Friday, April 9, Gov. Bev Perdue unveiled a new legislative initiative designed to improve the economic and employment prospects of Western North Carolina. The initiative, called JobsNOW, will focus on the needs of small businesses — including an increase in state spending on tourism, a package of tax incentives and other programs designed to enhance competitiveness.
Romancing Early Girl: N.C. Gov. Bev Perdue eats at Early Girl Eatery when she’s in WNC, she told the crowd assembled to hear about new job initiatives. Enjoying the flattery, Early Girl-owner Julie Stehling looks on. — Photos by Rachel Miller, Mountain Bizworks
“The news is brighter than it was at this time last year,” she said to a crowd of nearly 100 people. “But it’s not brighter for the people who have lost their jobs.” She went on to say that two thirds of all jobs in the state are created by small businesses, and that small business was “the most important piece” of the new initiative.
Perdue was joined by Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, Senate Majority Leader Martin Nesbitt, Sen. Joe Sam Queen (D-47), Reps. Ray Rapp (D-118), Susan Fisher (D-114), Jane Whilden (D-116), Bruce Goforth (D-115), Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy, and Scott Daugherty, the state’s first-ever Small Business Commissioner, who was appointed in February.
The governor recognized the importance of tourism to Western North Carolina’s economy, saying that in generated over $15 billion in revenue and was responsible for creating 185,000 jobs. “You don’t bite the hand that feeds you,” Purdue said.
She’s asking the General Assembly to increase the state’s tourism budget by 10 percent to better compete with states like Virginia, which Perdue thinks does a better job of promoting itself to a national audience. “Everyone loves Biltmore,” she continued in a nod to the area’s largest economic tourism engine, Biltmore Estate. “But for every Biltmore there are a hundred Early Girl restaurants.”
This is the first of two other stops the governor is making today in the state to push for her JobsNOW initiative.