Archive for Economic Development


You Invited Them

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“I don’t get all the anti-immigrant sentiment in this country. Because this is a country that says this is the greatest country in the world. We’re the best. We’re number one. Then we get upset when people actually show up. But when you advertise something … sometimes people buy it. That’s how it works.”
– Indian-American comedian Hari Kondabolu

Over the years, I’ve opened up in-flight magazines and seen multi-page, color spreads advertising Asheville and western North Carolina as great places to vacation and to build a summer home. Come hike our majestic mountains. Visit our beautiful waterfalls. Tour the fabulous Biltmore Estate. And what better place to retire than the mountains of western North Carolina? Our developers, builders and retailers are anxious to build your dream home for you.

Western North Carolina’s marketing efforts succeeded beyond our wildest dreams. Downtown was reborn. Asheville made top-ten list after top-ten list. People came. Locals made money. Retirees retired here. But newcomers brought their tastes and politics with them. In-migration changed local culture. Some natives are uneasy around people unlike themselves, and resentful. Sure, we wanted their business. But we didn’t want them, you know, in our business.

Hello? You invited them.

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This is a guest post from the effervescent Amanda Rodriguez. Thanks for sharing your story, Amanda.

Amanda Rodriguez, homeowner.

Amanda Rodriguez, homeowner.

I moved to Asheville eight and a half years ago from Massachusetts because I hated big city life and bitter Boston winters. I also wanted to be closer to my grad school. While completing a low-residency program in Charlotte, I lived in Asheville and worked full-time, scraping to get by, supplementing my meager income with student loans. After graduating, I was still in love with Asheville, but I was buried under crippling student loan debt and the exorbitant cost of renting in the city. I wanted so badly to stay in Asheville, but it seemed like an impossibility. I was nowhere near hitting the 30K a year mark despite having a Masters degree.

When construction started on the Clingman Lofts, I became fascinated with them. As they took shape, their fun, funky aesthetic seemed perfect for me. I even crept into and explored them one night while they were still a work-in-progress. My heart ached at visions of the future that I imagined with myself cozy inside one of those lofts so close to downtown. My heart ached at the seemingly unattainable dream that I could be a homeowner in Asheville.

Affordable housing made that dream a reality. I’ve lived in my loft on Clingman Avenue for over five years now, and though the road to get here was rough, it was so very worth it. Using various programs throughout the city, I became a homeowner, and my monthly mortgage payments are even slightly less than I was paying to rent all those years ago. Because of affordable housing, I was able to set down roots in Asheville and make a life for myself. I was able to add myself to this vibrant community, contributing to the economy and the work force, contributing my intelligence, my creativity, and my diversity to my new home town.

I think of all the amazing and valuable people who’ve essentially been pushed out of Asheville because the wages are too low and the cost of living too high. I’m fearful of the trend towards gentrification that seeks to homogenize a city that is a renowned tourist destination because of its eclectic community. Affordable housing is vital to attracting and retaining talented people in our city, to fostering diversity, and to keeping Asheville weird.

What’s that saying about never going full on something or other?
(Video courtesy of dixiegirlz.)

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Wealth Inequality in America

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at NCDP SEC, Groundhog Day 2013 - 5 smallOpponents of a state measure to take over the Asheville city water system and forcibly merge it with the Metropolitan Sewerage District of Buncombe County met in Durham Saturday with members of the State Executive Committee of the North Carolina Democratic Party. State, city, and county legislators from every corner of the state were among the hundreds of delegates at the meeting to elect new state party officers.

The merger bill cosponsored by Reps. Tim Moffitt (R-Buncombe) and Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson) is expected to force a merger of the Asheville city water system with the Metropolitan Sewerage District of Buncombe County. It will be introduced within days and likely fast-tracked through the committee process. The House Standing Committee on Regulatory Reform, chaired by Moffitt, could review the bill.

Jake Quinn, a DNC member from Buncombe County, went to the microphone to address the assembly about the legislation.

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Homecoming Job Fair Next Thursday

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Courtesy of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce:

2013 Homecoming Job Fair
Date: Thursday, January 3rd 2013
Time: 10:00am to 3:00pm
Location: Biltmore Square Mall


The 7th Annual Homecoming Job Fair presented by SunTrust Bank will host Asheville regional employers to promote employment opportunities in advanced manufacturing, health care, and other growth industries in Western North Carolina. Residents, students, graduates, former residents, and friends and family visiting over the holidays are encouraged to attend this one-stop opportunity to meet directly with representatives from companies that are hiring, will be hiring in 2013, or companies promoting awareness of their organization to potential future employees.

More information at the link.

These fairs are a handy indicator of the health of the local job market. I have attended most of them, usually held between Christmas and New Year’s Day. This time, sadly, I’ll be out of town when the fair takes place. Hope it’s a fruitful opportunity for local people needing work.

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Sunday Evening Music

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BID Open Thread

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I’m hearing a lot about this BID idea that is not good. At least it sounds not good at this point. Admittedly, I don’t know a lot about it yet, but I’m hoping to learn.

Here is a collection of stuff via the MtnX, as an intro to BID primer.

I keep seeing the mention of Public/Private partnerships, tax zones, and a general indication that these BID endeavors are taken in places that need to be reclaimed from economic and societal hard times and decay as I browse through some Google search results.

If it is the case that a BID is a better option for areas that need to be “reclaimed” or “saved” from their current condition, I think we should all know what the people driving this effort feel it is that this area needs to be saved from? And why does the area need this help in the form of forced gentrification and inflationary policies? Is this how we keep all those expensive hotels happy? Is US Cellular a big fan? Are certain unelected city officials enamored with the prospect of supplanting the natural organically developed character of Asheville with a prefabricated, commodified plastic version that fits more easily into the urban planning framework and makes Downtown safe for corporate homogenesis?

In any case, please use this space to contribute whatever you know about the issue, and of course your studied opinions.


Sunday Morning Music

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And now, for your Sunday Morning Music pleasure… here’s Councilman Gordon Smith (and the Barry Summers Trio) with that delightful Bossa Nova standard, Água de Beber.

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Poll Dancing

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The latest polling numbers confirm what many of us already knew about Amendment One: it has overwhelming support here in North Carolina (57% strongly support, 6% somewhat support, 5% somewhat oppose and 24% strongly oppose). Civitas recently asked the question:

“Do you support or oppose a constitutional amendment that says: Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State?

Because I have nothing better to do, I made this little graph so folks can see what these numbers actually look like:

Interestingly enough, support for Amendment One has actually increased here in Western North Carolina over the last three months (as opposed to holding at a relatively steady level of 60% plus statewide). For the full results and all the cool crosstabs from Civitas, click here).

And I’ll bet that tonight’s passage of a resolution by City Council in opposition to Amendment One will not only solidify those numbers, but bump them up a few notches. But more on all that shadowy election-year strategery in an upcoming post — let’s just say that the best traps in politics are the ones that your opponents on both sides step willingly into.

Anyhoo, despite the overwhelming likelihood of its passage, several top conservative thinkers in the state have recently weighed in — not only opposing Amendment One, but casting doubt on both its longevity and its constitutionality. If you’re a Republican — not to mention fancy yourself a conservative — you may be surprised to hear what they have to say.

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