News in brief: Dogwood Health Trust releases annual report, new jobs come to Fletcher

COUNT ME IN: Dogwood Health Trust spent more than $1.5 million to encourage regional participation in the 2020 U.S. Census. Photo courtesy of Dogwood Health Trust

Dogwood Health Trust releases first annual report 

After a tumultuous 2020, Western North Carolina’s biggest nonprofit is taking stock of its situation. The Dogwood Health Trust unveiled its first annual report on Dec. 30, which summarizes roughly $47 million in grants approved throughout the year.

The foundation’s work addressed a broad portfolio of social determinants of health, the foremost of which was the region’s COVID-19 response. DHT disbursed $9 million toward that work across WNC’s 18 counties and the Qualla Boundary, including over $3 million for personal protective equipment and an unspecified amount toward coronavirus testing. Other major items included $5 million to address substance use disorder, $3.7 million for racial equity and $3 million toward affordable housing.

The report also provides the first look at DHT’s financial holdings, about which the nonprofit has been reluctant to share details since its founding in February 2019. As of Dec. 31, 2019, the trust held just under $1.1 billion in net assets; by 2022, when the foundation is expected to take control of all proceeds from the sale of Mission Health to HCA Healthcare, that amount will approach $1.5 billion.

At the end of 2019, 55% of DHT’s investments were allocated in equities, 18% in unspecified “diversifiers,” 14% in fixed-income or cash investments and 13% in private investments. The nonprofit also spent more than $4.46 million on staff compensation and professional services in 2019.

Low Impact Technologies to bring 60 jobs to Fletcher

The Henderson County Partnership for Economic Development announced in a Dec. 16 press release that Low Impact Technologies, an Australian producer of solar distillation equipment, will locate its first US manufacturing facility in Fletcher. The company is expected to invest $5 million in new equipment, make $150,000 in renovations to an existing building and create 60 new jobs with an average wage of $65,000 by 2025.

According to Brittany Brady, president of the HCPED, Low Impact Technologies could receive over $160,000 in taxpayer subsidies as part of the agreement, pending the company’s fulfilment of its hiring and investment targets. The town of Fletcher has agreed to pay roughly $46,000 through 2025, while Henderson County has offered over $114,000. No state-based incentives were included in the deal.

Asheville seeks input on Biltmore and McDowell plans

As part of a corridor study on Biltmore Avenue and McDowell Street, Asheville city planners want to hear from the public about the future of the busy roadways. An online survey, available at, includes questions about transportation and road design for motorists, bicyclists, pedestrians and transit riders.

The study, expected to conclude this summer, will complement existing citywide plans such as Asheville in Motion and the Transit Master Plan. The city currently expects to increase development density and affordability along the corridor, with matching improvements to bus and bike infrastructure.

State extends eviction moratorium through Jan. 31

North Carolina will continue its eviction moratorium for residential tenants through Sunday, Jan. 31, Gov. Roy Cooper announced at a Dec. 30 press conference. The order brings the state into alignment with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s national order to pause tenant evictions through the end of the month.

Since October, the state-run Housing Opportunities and Prevention of Evictions program has facilitated more than $37.4 million in direct payments to North Carolina landlords and utility companies on behalf of 21,000 tenants, Cooper said. State officials expect to receive another $700 million in rental assistance from the latest federal coronavirus relief package.

Buncombe County reports more deaths in 2020 than any other year

More people died in 2020 in Buncombe County than any other year in history, according to year-end birth and death statistics compiled by Drew Reisinger, Buncombe’s register of deeds. COVID-19 contributed to 274 of the 3,994 deaths analyzed, a figure that includes out-of-county residents who died within Buncombe limits. The previous high of 3,802 deaths was set in 2018, per data from the last two decades.

Birth and marriage rates declined in 2020. Just shy of 4,000 babies were born last year, and 2,457 couples got married, down from 2019 figures of 4,264 and 2,745, respectively.

Updated at 10:45 a.m. on Jan. 4 to add birth and death statistics. 


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