TO LEARN FROM THE PAST: Darin Waters, UNC Asheville assistant professor of history, opens the 2016 African-Americans in WNC and  Southern Appalachia Conference at the YMI Cultural Center. This year's event starts on Oct. 19. Photo courtesy of UNC Asheville

Conference ties African-American past with future

The African Americans in WNC and Southern Appalachia Conference returns to Asheville for its fourth year Thursday, Oct. 19, through Saturday, Oct. 21. Originally organized to highlight research on the historical African-American presence in the region, the conference is broadening its scope this year with the theme, “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.”

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?

With 45 percent of business owners in Buncombe County alone facing retirement in the next decade, local groups and service providers are encouraging them to start planning for their company’s next chapter, while simultaneously devising ways to turn an impending crisis into an opportunity for employees to shoulder new responsibilities.