The Beat: Weekly news roundup

In economic news, regional outlets continued to offer conflicting coverage of whether or not things are on the rebound.

BlueRidgeNow reported that “Henderson County home values worrying officials.” According to the article, a decline in home values over the past two years could mean less property tax money for Henderson County unless the tax rate is adjusted.

“Property is not only selling for less, but they are on the market longer,” Henderson County Assessor Stan Duncan recently told county commissioners.

“The market is always looking at supply and demand, and right now there is more supply,” Duncan continued.

In other bad news for homeowners, Xpress reported in an online post that “Buncombe Ranks Eighth in Foreclosures.” As of the end of July, the county had the eighth-most foreclosures in the state so far this year, with 1,073.

The state had experienced more than 40,000 filings – enough, if trends hold, to eclipse last year’s record of 63,289.

“The foreclosure crisis is devastating for North Carolina’s working families,” said Alfred Ripley, head of the NC Justice Center’s Consumer Action Network. “Across the state, people are struggling to stay in their homes.”

Joblessness in Transylvania; boom times in Cherokee

Over in Transylvania County, rising unemployment has been making headlines.

In “Officials Discuss Obstacles Facing Unemployed,” the Transylvania Times reported that the county had 4,500 manufacturing jobs in 1990, but by 2009, that number had dropped to 400.

The loss of jobs means that now the school system is the largest employer in the county, according to School Superintendent Jeff McDaris. “We don’t want to be,” he said at a meeting of the Transylvania County Economic Development Advisory Board.

At the meeting, Madrid Zimmerman, director of the Heart of Brevard, said several years of recession have dampened spirits.

“Our culture has gone through a psychological recession. This fuels people’s hesitation to move forward,” she said.

Some officials, however, said they took heart in a few indications that improvement may be on the way.

Mark Burrows, the county’s director of Planning and Economic Development, reported that permitting for new commercial and industrial buildings is up this year over last, with 16 units permitted this year versus six at the same time a year ago.

He also noted that the June unemployment number was 8.5 percent, the latest figure available, while it was 8.6 percent in June of last year.

Down the road in Cherokee, however, the Smoky Mountain News reported that business is booming. According to “Cherokee’s New Nerve Center Pushes the Envelope Inside and Out,” growth in gambling revenue over the last decade has funded the local government’s growth from 50 to 200 tribally operated programs.

The tribe now has 70 buildings connected to a 27.5-mile broadband fiber optic network with a 10-gigabyte capacity, including a new $140 million K-12 school and a $630 million expansion of its casino complex.

Improvements at Asheville High; A-B Tech enrollment up

While Asheville High students don’t have a new facility, the Asheville Citizen-Times reported that the 91-year-old building that serves them saw some major improvements this summer as part of a $6 million renovation project.

Changes include a new heating and cooling system that allows rooms to be regulated individually, along with new ceilings making the building more energy efficient. New energy efficient lights will also help cut down on power bills. Additionally, about 300 windows were replaced, allowing teachers to bring fresh air and sunlight into classrooms.

“We are really protecting the legacy of the building but also bringing it into the 21st century,” said Allen Johnson, superintendent of Asheville City Schools.

And in other education news, the paper reported that “Enrollment at A-B Tech up 12 Percent from 2009.” The community college had a fall enrollment of 7,736 students, a 12 percent increase over the first day of classes in fall 2009.

“This has been the best registration we have had in a number of years. I believe it is because we extended registration from one month to a month and a half,” said Dr. Dennis King, Vice President of Student Services.

New flights to New York

In “Asheville Getting Another Route to the Big Apple,” the C-T reported that U.S. Airways will soon offer twice-daily nonstop service between LaGuardia Airport and Asheville Regional Airport. Continental Airlines currently offers one flight a day to the city, and has plans to expand its schedule to twice a day next month. Delta Air Lines also flies once daily between Asheville and LaGuardia.

The increase in flights could result in more competitive fares from all three airlines, airport Director Lew Bleiweis told the paper. After Orlando, Fla., the New York area is the second-most popular destination for people flying out of Asheville, according to airport statistics.

In other news at the airport, a new concessions company, The Paradies Shops, will soon take over all food, beverage, news and gift services at AVL. Plans include a new pre-security Travelmart, which could feature Bruegger’s Bagels or Dunkin’ Donuts, and a post-security CNBC retail shop and restaurant.

The C-T also reported that “Art in the Airport Seeks Exhibitors.” The Art in the Airport program spotlights the work of local artists on a rotating basis, with exhibits lasting approximately 120 days. The application deadline for the next exhibit is Sept. 10. Interested artists can visit for more information.

Other news from the runway

In local runway news of a different sort, the daily paper reported that “Former ‘Project Runway’ Contestants Spotted in Asheville.”

Apparently two former contestants of the reality television show – Austin Scarlett and Santino Rice – were in town to shoot a segment for a new TV series coming out on the Lifetime cable channel. The show will reportedly feature the designers – both of whom are known for their eccentric designs and personalities – swooping into a small town to do a makeover for a lucky lady.

Wake of the Flood

In weather related news, the News-Record & Sentinel reported that “Flooding Damages Wolf Laurel.” While much of the region has been suffering from drought conditions this summer, last week heavy rains produced dramatic flooding in the Madison County community.

According to the article, floodwaters ravaged the creek along the Wolf Ridge Ski Resort, tearing out the road leading to the resort lodge, ripping asphalt out on Village Lane, and destroying a covered bridge.

“Some people said we had five inches of rain. I think we had more,” said Harold Tipton, who oversees road maintenance at the resort.

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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