TIDAL WAVE: Walter Vicente is a master stitcher, sample maker and worker-owner at the Valdese-based company Opportunity Threads. With nearly half of local businesses owned by baby-boomers, economic analysts are working to draw attention to the impending mass retirements of these owners, while others advocate alternative succession plans, like employee cooperatives. Photo courtesy of Opportunity Threads.

Passing the torch: What happens when local business owners retire?

The imminent mass retirement of baby boomers has both economic advisers and worker advocates worried about the future of small businesses in Western North Carolina and beyond. Boomers, many of whom will retire within the next decade, own roughly half of all American businesses, census data shows. This looming “silver tsunami” is unprecedented, says Matt […]

HERE COMES THE SUN: Appalachian Offsets is offering an opportunity to offset your carbon footprint and support a solar array for Isaac Dickson Elementary at the same time. Rendering courtesy of Appalachian Offsets

Appalachia­n Offsets seeks donors to help Isaac Dickson school go solar

Appalachian Offsets is providing an opportunity for Asheville residents to both protect the environment and invest in environmental education, by helping fund Isaac Dickson Elementary School’s much-anticipated 600-kilowatt solar system. Donations can be made via Appalachian Offsets’ website, which calculates a person’s carbon footprint and then asks for a donation to offset that footprint. The […]

MARGINALIZED: Confronting the largest disparity between the performance of black and white students in the state, outgoing Asheville City Schools Superintendent Pam Baldwin says that shifting the system toward greater equity “is not ‘another thing’: It is the only thing.” Photo by Jack Sorokin

Asheville City Schools take aim at racial disparitie­s

State data show that the gap in academic achievement between white and black students in the Asheville City Schools is the largest in North Carolina. The district is launching a new initiative to address the persistent problem — but only time will tell whether this effort will succeed where so many have failed to show results.

OTTER-LY ENGAGING: The Nature Center’s otter inhabitants draw kids and adults alike to watch their antics, which can be playful, cuddly and athletic, all in the space of a few minutes. Photo courtesy of the WNC Nature Center

The incredible shrinking subsidy: WNC Nature Center achieves 3-year reduction goal in one year

When the WNC Nature Center learned the city of Asheville’s subsidy for the facility would shrink by more than half over three years, the environmental education attraction wasn’t immediately sure how it would make up the funding shortfall. But it didn’t take long to figure it out: the Nature Center met the three-year goal in only one year. The attraction is expanding to meet demand, and visitation is setting new records nearly every month.

UNION DAYS: Approximately 90 workers and organizers of the Amalgamated Association of Street and Electric Railway Employees of America, Local Div. No. 128 pose for a picture in April 1913. Despite North Carolina’s status as one of the least unionized states in the country, current-day local union chapters such as ATU 128, have a long history of organizing and advocating for workers’ rights in the Southern Highlands. Photo via the Norh Carolina Collection, Pack Memorial Library, Asheville North Carolina

Labor pains: WNC unions at a crossroads

In Western North Carolina and across the country, labor unions seem to be a dying breed these days, and many local residents don’t seem overly concerned about it. Yet WNC’s complex history of unionization stretches back to the late 19th century. From high-profile labor disputes and the emergence of “right to work” laws to the […]

Mayor Esther Manheimer recognizes Steve Mitchell as the city's Volunteer of the Year. Photo by Virginia Daffron

State legislator moves to force Asheville’s hand on district elections

City Council moved ahead with plans to poll city voters on whether or not they’d like to see districts put in place for seats on the Council. Three new members of the city’s school Board of Education were appointed, and the issue of homestays in accessory dwelling units returned to the Council chamber.

EXPLORING THE PAST: Interns at Xpress will research Asheville's rich history.

Calling (college) students of history for new summer internship

Put on those latex gloves, we’ve got primary source material to look into! Mountain Xpress has announced a summer internship for college students interested in local history. Summer interns will have the opportunity to research Asheville’s historic citizens, buildings, events, triumphs and tragedies. In addition, you will learn of, and develop contacts with, local historians and […]

BUILDING CULTURE: From the ancestors of the Ani Katuah to the first European settlers and later tobacco farmers, the evolution of human settlement and existence in the Southern Appalachians can be traced through the structure and buildings they erected to support their ways of life. The Rural Heritage Museum at Mars Hill University documents the evolution of built structures in its latest exhibit, Shelter on the Mountain, on display through May 28. Photo of an open cathedral-like hayloft of the 1951 gambrel-roof barn built by Delbert and Charlie Shelton in the Shelton Laurel community. By Earthsong Photography/ Don McGowan

Rural Heritage Museum highlights history of WNC barns

From the Ani Katuah to white settlers and tobacco farmers, barns and buildings have played a central role in defining the culture of the Southern Appalachians. Shelter on the Mountain: Barns and Building Traditions of the Southern Highlands traces the evolution of local building practices.