Blog :: 08-2011

Downtown development can pay off, experts say

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8/31/2011 - Downtown development can pay off, experts say
by Ed Kemmick - Billings Gazette

Setting the standards across the state, region and country as a whole!  Representatives from Asheville speaking to other communities about growth and responsible development bring credibility to Western North Carolina...

 

At the First Interstate Bank Operations Center on Tuesday morning, a North Carolina developer touted the public benefits of investing in downtown revitalization.

In the same building a few hours later, the regional administrator of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development heard about efforts to create a sustainable community in the mostly industrial area that stretches east of downtown Billings to MetraPark.

The speaker at the first event was Joseph Minicozzi, executive director of the Asheville, N.C., Downtown Association. His main message was that cities need to think like farmers -- in terms of yields per acre, in this case the yield of tax revenue per acre of development.

He drew numerous examples of high-yield development from his work with Public Interest Projects, a private, for-profit real estate company that concentrates on urban infill, historic preservation and business start-ups in downtown Asheville.

He said Asheville, population 80,000, had a thriving downtown until the mid-1950s, when an expressway was built through its middle. During the 1970s and '80s, he said, the downtown was "dead as a doornail," with blocks and blocks of boarded-up buildings and deserted streets.

The downtown began to recover after 1983, when citizens rallied and stopped a plan to raze blocks of buildings and construct a downtown shopping mall. From 1991 to 2010, the taxable value of downtown property increased from $104 million to $656 million.

One six-story building that was developed by Public Interest Projects was bought for $300,000 15 years ago and is now worth $11 million.

More important is the comparison between downtown development with the kind of big-box development that usually occurs far from the city center.

The Walmart store in Asheville, which sprawls over 34 acres, pays $6,500 a year per acre in property taxes, Minicozzi said, while the average property tax paid in residential areas in Asheville is $19,542 per acre. But the building mentioned above, in the heart of the downtown? It pays $634,000 a year per acre, he said.

In terms of total taxes paid, the county takes in $51,000 a year per acre on the Asheville Walmart, compared with $414,000 a year per acre on the six-story downtown building.

"That's what the community got by our investment," he said.

On the other side of the equation, Minicozzi said, it costs cities a lot of money to extend infrastructure -- streets, sewer lines, water, streetlights -- to a suburban development. Downtown, the infrastructure is already there, meaning the city makes much more money per acre and pays much less to provide services.

Minicozzi did the same sort of analysis for Billings and came up with some startling findings. According to county property tax records, he said, the ConocoPhillips refinery paid $880 per acre in 2010, Rimrock Mall paid $1,965 and Costco paid $2,023.

In the heart of the downtown, the old Masonic building paid $29,822 per acre, First Interstate Bank paid $32,102 and the old Montana Power building on North Broadway paid a whopping $230,058 per acre.

Minicozzi also presented what he called the "Tale of Two Wells Fargos" -- the new West End Operations Center and the old bank building on North 27th Street. The West End building sits on 14.6 acres, pays $1,296 a year per acre in property taxes and provides 30 jobs per acre.

By comparison, the downtown Wells Fargo building sits on .48 acre, pays $634,000 per acre in annual property taxes and provides 1,327 jobs per acre.

Minicozzi said cities that think in these terms will do more to encourage downtown development and discourage development on the fringes of the city. His appearance was sponsored by several local businesses, the city of Billings and the Sonoran Institute, a nonprofit that studies land-use and planning issues.

Later in the day, Rick Garcia, Region 8 HUD administrator in Denver, heard about the East Billings Urban Renewal District -- in which the First Interstate Operations Center sits -- and then toured the area by bus.

He was accompanied by Erik Amundson, HUD's Montana field office director. They heard about the district's attempts to develop mixed-income, mixed-use neighborh oods, and about projects like the proposed North Park Children's Center.

The district is applying for a $3 million Community Challenge Planning Grant from HUD to establish a fund that would be used to invest in projects that dovetail with the district's sustainability and livability principles.

Amundson said HUD should make a decision soon on the grants, but he said he couldn't say anything else that would hint at the agency's estimation of the worth of the district's application.

Garcia did say, however, that "this project is on the radar screen in Region 8."

Read more: http://billingsgazette.com/news/local/article_a086f50b-0bd7-5154-a884-53f1070993a0.html#ixzz1WbwZ4gtj

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Asheville gets zipline with view of downtown

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8/31/2011 - Asheville gets zipline with view of downtown
by Karen Chavez - Asheville Citizen Times

Want a bird's eye view of Downtown Asheville??  Now you can REALLY have one!!  Welcome to inventive entrepreneurship here in the mountains of Western North Carolina!!

 

            ASHEVILLE -- When Asheville adventure entrepreneur Jeff Greiner starts a new project, he begins by channeling his inner bird brain.

 Greiner stands in the middle of a forest, a river valley or, most recently, the golf course at the Crowne Plaza Resort and thinks, "Now if I were up in the trees, where would I want to fly?" 

His airborne animal instincts kick in, scoping out the branches of giant white oaks and the perches of towering tulip poplars. And that's how a zip line canopy tour is born.

On Tuesday morning, Greiner introduced his latest high-flying project, Asheville Zipline Canopy Adventures. The first "urban" zip line in Asheville city limits, and the latest of Greiner and family's five zip lines throughout Western North Carolina, it has the best aspects of a bird's life in a city setting.

"The whole idea of being in a wooded, city landscape is kind of different," said Greiner, who lives in Asheville with his family, who are co-owners of Adventure America Zipline Canopy Tours. "The cool thing is you're flying from tree to tree, out across open areas, and back into the trees."

The course, which opened to a media tour Tuesday, is like a grown-up's treehouse playground set on 20 acres of the scenic former front nine of the Crowne Plaza's golf course. Starting at the "Jenga Tower," where guests climb to a 54-foot-high launch deck, zippers get to feast on the Asheville skyline and Blue Ridge Mountains before hurling themselves out into the great wide open.

The first zip line -- a steel cable on which guests glide while suspended only by a pulley and harness system -- runs about 350 feet to a landing on a 150-year-old white oak. Zippers are guided in by rangers who encourage safety while telling bad jokes to cajole guests along the precipitous bridges and tree decks.

Chris Bebenik started out the 2 1/2-hour tour with heavy breathing and buglike, fear-filled eyeballs.

"I was really nervous going in because I have a fear of heights," Bebenick said. "But once I got away from the edge of the deck and got going out there, I had a really great time. I've never done anything that compares to this."

After he got over the initial fear of letting go on platforms more than 50 feet in the air, zipping up to 30 mph along cables up to a quarter-mile long, Bebenick said the flying sensation became addictive.

Zip line fever

That infatuation seems to be spreading across the country. Zip lining has been exploding in the United States over the past few years, after getting its start in the rain forests of Costa Rica in the late 1990s. According to the Association for Challenge Course Technology, North Carolina has the most zip line tours after Hawaii, with 17.

After the Asheville Zipline, the closest to the city is Navitat Canopy Adventures in Barnardsville, about 20 minutes north of Asheville, and two zip lines that just opened this summer in Lake Lure.

Greiner believes there are enough resident and visiting thrill-seekers to go around, even in a recession.

"When we started working on the idea for the Nantahala (the canopy tour he opened two years ago in the Nantahala Gorge), the economy was great," Greiner said. "You can't predict the timing of when an idea comes to fruition. But we find that even when the economy is bad, people want to get outdoors. And this is something different. There is a buzz around zip lining."

He likens it to the hype around whitewater rafting in the late 1970s and early '80s, and snowboarding in the '90s. He is also co-owner of Wildwater Rafting, which has been running trips in the Nantahala Gorge for 30 years.

The Asheville Zipline will be open seven days a week, 12 months a year, Greiner said, with discounts for guests of the Crowne Plaza Resort, which leases the land to Adventure America Zipline Canopy Tours.

"Our long-term goal is to be a destination resort," said Angela Beattie, Crowne Plaza director of marketing and sales. The resort recently expanded its racquet club, fitness center and tenni s courts.

"Dennis (Hulsing, Crowne Plaza owner) is really interested in family, fitness, wellness and taking care of yourself. We were looking for that outdoor, fun element for everyone. Jeff approached us with the zip line idea in December. Dennis was sold. Our guests are excited about it."

Like Indiana Jones

The Asheville canopy tour has 10 zip lines, three towers, three swinging bridges (including one dubbed the "Indiana Jones Bridge" for its purposely missing planks), and includes two double zip lines where riders zip side by side. A full-time arborist is employed to ensure the health and safety of the trees on the course. It was was built by Challenge Design Innovations of Pineola under the guidelines of ACCT, which sets building, inspection and training standards for zip lines.

"Any piece of life-supporting equipment has a minimum breaking strength of 5,000 pounds," said CDI builder Andrew Morris.

"We have a minimum requirement of once-a-year inspections, but we'll be doing two inspections a year because of the amount of people coming through," Morris said.

Asheville radio talk show host Blake Butler took a couple of hours out of his day to try out the zip line Tuesday, mere minutes from the Smoky Park Bridge and downtown Asheville.

"It was exhilarating. It was nice to be out among nature," Butler said. "It's so close to town, so it's nice not to have to travel far. This is right in our backyard. I can only imagine in the fall with the colors, how beautiful it will be."

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$700K grant to bring nature to kids in Asheville and beyond

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8/30/2011 - $700K grant to bring nature to kids in Asheville and beyond
by Karen Chávez - Asheville Citizen Times

GREAT FOR THE KIDS, great for us all here in Western North Carolina!!

 ASHEVILLE -- A $701,000 grant to the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation's Kids in Parks program will help kids in Western North Carolina and around the country get off couches, away from video screens and back into parks.

 The program to help children and their families get active and healthy while reconnecting with nature got a huge boost with the grant from from Blue Cross/Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation, which helped launch the program on the Blue Ridge Parkway in 2008 with an initial $204,000 grant.

Kids in Parks has been so successful, it is now going nationwide.

"We were really impressed with the success of the program over the past two years," said Jennifer MacDougall, Healthy Active Communities senior program officer for the BC/BS of NC Foundation.

"The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation and partners have really been able to develop an effective strategy to get children and their families outdoors on existing trails. Whether it's national parks, state parks, municipal parks, the program seems to be really effective wherever it goes."

The grant will expand the program into North Carolina's state, county and municipal parks as well as launch a National Technical Training and Resource Center for Kids in Parks over the next three years.

Kids in Parks is a partnership of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, the Blue Ridge Parkway and the BC/BS of NC Foundation, which work with community partners to help children increase their physical activity, improve nutritional choices and spend more time outdoors.

Kids in Parks reaches out to children with its TRACK Trails (Trails, Ridges and Active, Caring Kids), allowing children and their families to take free, self-guided scavenger hunts.

The first trail was designated along the Mountains-to-Sea Trail near the Parkway Visitor Center in August 2009.

There are now nine TRACK Trails, which use existing trails and resources, including locations in Pisgah National Forest, Chimney Rock State Park, Owen High School and on parkway trails in Virginia. Brochures on each trail guide visitors with different nature topics. The program targets ages 4-10, said Jason Urroz, Kids in Parks program director, but it's open to everyone.

When children complete a trail, they can log on to the Kids in Parks website and answer questions, earning rewards such as bandannas and disc golf equipment for becoming "Trail TRACKers."

Since the first trail opened, 475 children have registered hikes, Urroz said, .

"A Kaiser Family Foundation study (2010) found that kids spend an average of 7.5 hours a day plugged in, watching TV, playing video games, on the computer," Urroz said.

"At the same time, fewer kids are going to parks. You see a link between those numbers. We want to see if we can find a fun way to get kids back to the parks. If you can make a hike fun, then it won't seem like exercise, and they will choose to do it."

The newest TRACK Trail, which will open in two weeks, is in Custer State Park in South Dakota, the first trail to expand Kids in Parks across the country, said Carolyn Ward, CEO of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation.

"When we started in 2008, we had two partners. Now we have 37," Ward said, which includes UNC Asheville's Health and Wellness Center. "We have so many wonderful resources in this community."

The Kids in Parks staff, headquartered on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Asheville, will lead webinars or serve as a training resource for parks around the country that want to send staffs to Asheville to see how the program works.

"It took us many thousands of dollars to create this program, but now that it's replicable, it can work at sites thousands of miles away without us setting foot there," she said.

 

 

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Asheville's Silver Dollar Cafe's legacy shines as it closes

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8/29/2011 - Asheville's Silver Dollar Cafe's legacy shines as it closes
by Carol Motsinger - Asheville Citizen Times

THE BEST OF THE BEST WISHES TO EVERYONE OF THE SILVER DOLLAR CAFE FOR THEIR FUTURES!!!

           The Silver Dollar Café is an unburied time capsule in the River Arts District.

It's 40-year-old wood-paneled walls exhibit a collection of framed black-and-white lingering ghosts and memories, dusty monuments to a time long gone. The only evidence of today are the two 2011 calendars hanging askew behind a row of faded tangerine booths.

Although time has stopped within this restaurant that's served Asheville for almost eight decades, the clock is catching up to Cathrine and Angelo Dotsikas, the husband-and-wife team behind the Silver Dollar since 1967.

At 3 p.m. Wednesday, Cathrine, 71, and Angelo, 76, Dotsikas will close the doors to the brick building at 175 Clingman Ave. for the last time, and hand over the keys to a restaurant group with a fresh, on-trend culinary vision.

"I'm just so tired, honey," Cathrine said, clutching her small fingers, almost smothered by her stacks of gold and rhinestone, over her heart. "I get up every day at a quarter to six. I can't do it. I'm just so tired, honey. You know ..." her final phrase trailing off as she hustled to greet a customer earlier this month.

If the new eatery -- called Asheville Public -- opens as planned in early December, it will represent the latest shift of the dynamic River Arts District away from its industrial ancestry and the blue-collar tastes reflected in the Silver Dollar's well-worn menu of inexpensive, greasy grub.

Asheville Public will serve artisan fare, house-made sausages and farm-to-table-inspired creations that parallels the district's creative renaissance.

Since the late 1970s, artist studios, galleries and performance spaces have resuscitated the tired metal and brick shells that were auto-junk yards and cotton mills in previous lives.

The drama, also featuring Asheville native Paul Schneider, included the special menu in a scene filmed inside the Silver Dollar.

The most celebrated character in the cafe is, however, the cafe itself. There are numerous images hanging on the wall the restaurant through the decades, from its first location on Roberts Street captured in black-and-white, to the current building constructed in 1969 and moved on a truck to Clingman Avenue in 1973 when road construction forced the migration.

This visual time line of the business is like a baby book, with Angelo Dotsikas as proud papa, showing off his child through each life stage.

"If you stay in one place for 45 years," said Angelo, who slings fried chicken and meatloaf from the cafe's kitchen, "then you've been a success."

The ordinary people

He immigrated from Greece, and started his Asheville life on Nov. 15, 1955, when he stepped off the Biltmore Train Depot station platform to join his uncle here.

"I came to America for a better life," he said, and it's a life he's shared with his two brothers, Jimmy and Theodore. Their Greek roots, a heritage shared by his wife of 54 years, are unearthed in the cafe's photographs of homes in Mykonos and the decorative plates acquired on a trip to their native country.

Theodore, who lives with the couple in Asheville, continues to quietly help in the restaurant, peeling potatoes during breakfast service Tuesday.

At the Silver Dollar, Angelo's life is about the people. The regulars, "the ordinary people," as Angelo calls them. These "ordinary people" are Asheville's taxi drivers. Construction workers and plumbers. Retirees. Nostalgic businessman and the hungover hipsters. No matter their vocation, age or social class, to Cathrine, they are always "honey" or "baby."

Melinda Flowers comes in every morning to be greeted by the scrambled eggs and grits she doesn't need to order to receive, and eats while gabbing with fellow customers between crossword puzzle revelations.

"It's the mountain version of (the TV show about a Boston bar) 'Cheers,'" Flowers said. "They are legends."

"There's something sad about the (Silver Dollar) closing," said Paul DeCirce, a diner regular and former RAD artist and resident, who stopped by for breakfast Thursday morning, a ritual that's defined his last decade of dining. "There are not a lot of places like this left."

And with the summer closure of two longstanding family-run Asheville eateries, Three Brothers and The Barbecue Inn, old-school eateries like the Silver Dollar, where the only thing that's changed through the years are the food prices, are becoming an even rarer breed in the city.

Places like Tastee Diner on Haywood Road and The Mediterranean on College Street are old-fashioned islands isolated from Asheville's growing reputation as a sophisticated, forward-thinking dining destination.

Serving the past

It was an almost now-unrecognizable Asheville that the Silver Dollar, then shiny and new, first served in 1934. Opened by Bill Carter, the restaurant that was originally housed on Roberts Street, fed the hundreds of workers that toiled at the nearby mills, stockyards and the tannery.

With a railroad stop and boat access on the adjacent French Broad River, the neighborhood emerged as the city's first industrial center.

However, Asheville historian Rob Neufeld, author of "Asheville's River Arts District," notes that by the time the Dotsikas purchased the Silver Dollar in 1967, this once booming economic center was already sluggish.

"A number of those industries had already closed, such as the cotton mill and the tannery ... passenger service on the railroad had closed. The Glen Rock Hotel had also closed," he said.

But it was the era of the automobile, when the nearby race track that is now the cycling feature of Carrier Park was booming, and the scrap metal business was thriving, he said.

1958's cult classic "Thunder Road" immortalizes the adreline of the River Arts District's auto-racing age.

Framed fame

Cathrine Dotsikas says the classic movie was filmed "just down the road," and it's the reason why she displays a framed photo of the "Thunder Road" hero, Robert Mitchum, in the Silver Dollar.

A pool-playing Mitchum is a member of the cafe's eclectic collection of celebrity photos; some signed, many obscure.

There's a Nate Booth posed with his donkey.

"He's an actor. He ate here one time, and next day, he died," Cathrine explained. And there's daily special menu prop signed by cast of 2003's "All the Real Girls," a film starring Danny McBride and Zooey Deschanel.

She's comfortable, content here in a setting reminiscent of the diners of her 1950s childhood in Raleigh. Like a carefree child, she'll twirl on the stools, even though it could make her dizzy. And her sweet tooth aches for the Dotsikases to use the milkshake mixer behind the bar, a retro relic that now only serves as a stand for the stereo blaring country FM radio.

Most of the people who come in are regulars like Flowers, Angelo said. The ones who know to bring bills to this cash-only establishment. The ones who expect for Catherine suggest the biscuit and gravy until you surrender to suggestion, letting her write it down on the ticket, even though the original order was buttered wheat toast.

Making change

Some of these regulars now can only exist as the portraits hanging on the wall.

"I've seen a lot of people die," Angelo said. One of these people memorialized on the cafe's walls was a Mike -- his last name too deeply archived in Cathrine's memory -- and "was the most wonderful man you've never met."

That's something she can't forget. And time is something they can't escape, even though the clock hanging above the window to the kitchen stopped ticking at at about 8 during one of Earth's previous rotations.

The Earth continues to rotate, just as the French Broad River continues to flow nearby, and the River Arts District continues to transform.

But for the Dotsikases, change will not be a motion. It's a rest.

After closing the diner on Wednesday, Angelo will simply "go home," he said.

"And sit down."

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Asheville has unique strengths, challenges to adding new businesses, better jobs

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8/29/2011 - Asheville has unique strengths, challenges to adding new businesses, better jobs
by Dale Neal - Asheville Citizen Times

A good commentary on the economy in general, and some bright spots of growth in the Asheville and surrounding areas.

 

 I've noticed lately how people bring up the "economy" in casual conversation the same way they might say "the enemy."

 You can't blame them. They were planning new business ventures or buying a bigger home for their family, but then the economy turned on them with a vengeance, wiping out their jobs and 401(k) savings, forcing foreclosures and bankruptcies. 

 Economists insist the Great Recession ended back in 2009. People shake their heads, wondering why it doesn't feel like a recovery two years later.

But one local economist argues maybe you ought to tune out all the bad news about the U.S. economy and concentrate on what's happening closer to home.

"The economy is right here," Tom Tveidt said recently at the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce's Metro Economy Outlook. "Our economy is different from Hickory or Greenville. Here is the economy you can understand and you can impact."

And he's right. That big bad U.S. economy can be broken down into 372 metropolitan areas, each with a differing rate of recovery from the recession.

Thankfully, Asheville is growing, slowly adding jobs -- just not at a pace that makes anyone happy. But slow growth is still better than the 100 other or so communities that are still losing jobs, Tveidt said.

Solar bright spot

For instance, Asheville boasts one business that is exploding like a supernova. Not many companies nationwide have seen revenues rising by 4,300 percent over the past three years, but FLS Energy has done just that, tapping into the endless, affordable energy of the sun.

That financial feat landed FLS Energy at 46th in the nation in Inc. magazine's list of the 500 fastest-growing companies. FLS Energy is the only North Carolina company that made this year's list. Asheville outscored Research Triangle Park, for a change.

FLS Energy started five years ago when three entrepreneurs saw that solar power was at last ripe for the picking. They've since grown to 80 employees, and each week they're posting five or six new openings, said Michael Shore, a co-founder and CEO. Shore looks to add probably 40 more workers next year.

"Asheville is an incredibly supportive community to grow a green business," Shore said. "We have received advice and assistance from Mountain BizWorks to the chamber, to RBC Bank and Self-Help Credit Union."

Asheville could certainly use more companies and job makers like FLS Energy

To that end, the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, under new CEO Kit Kramer, has launched Asheville 5x5, an ambitious plan to generate 5,000 new jobs over the next five years in five key job sectors: health care, advanced manufacturing, science and technology, arts and culture, and knowledge-based entrepreneurs. The chamber is halfway toward its $3 million goal in a fundraising campaign to support those job-creation efforts.

What makes us different?

Asheville likes to think of itself as unique, as "anyway you like it," and "keeping it weird," according to our popular bumper stickers and tourism campaigns. But Tveidt says there's more truth than hype to that idea.

Asheville is more than just a pretty place to visit for people who want to take in downtown, tour the Biltmore House, drive the Parkway for a weekend, then return home to the big city and their real jobs.

Industries used to flock here for water and other natural resources, cheap labor and energy. But then too many went chasing after even cheaper labor overseas over the past 20 years, and the area has seen thousands of jobs lost with the closing of many textile, furniture and electronics factories.

Yet advanced manufacturing is very much alive and thriving in the Asheville area, offering good wages for those workers with the necessary skills.

Chamber officials point proudly to the entrepreneur Jim Oliver, the first graduate of the small-business incubator at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College. Oliver had an idea to build a satellite antenna dish for mobile television broadcasts. From a one-man operation, he built a company that now employs 170 employees who manufacture advanced communications devices used by the Department of Defense, the White House and other top clients.

We still make things here in the mountains, and the chamber needs to do more to spread that news.

We're basically competing against a lot of communities nationwide, often willing to pay millions of dollars to bid for a new auto or aviation plant. It makes more sense if we can cultivate more homegrown businesses like Shore's FLS Energy or Oliver's AvL Technologies.

What are our assets?

You don't associate Asheville with cutting-edge research in science and technology as in Silicon Valley or Boston or even Research Triangle Park, but think about the weather and the environment, and we have some advantages.

The National Climatic Data Center, with its vast databases of worldwide weather records, is a treasure trove for research into how climate change could affect business and society in the decades to come. Scientists and data visualization specialists are starting to migrate here to some high-paying positions to explore that data.

The N. C. Arboretum, along with the Bent Creek Institute, offers more than a stroll through pretty gardens, but scientific research into the region's biodiversity. The plants that grow in abundance in the wild could offer tomorrow's treatments for cancer and other diseases.

As manufacturing has lost jobs over the decades, health care has stepped in to fill the gap.

Mission Health System is, of course, our largest area employer. With an aging population, health care will continue to offer job opportunities for physicians and specialists, nurses and aides.

Arts and culture have often been an afterthought, economically speaking. But for generations, crafters have made good livings in pottery, quilts, glass and other creations that bring top dollar.

Thinking of culture, what comes to mind is not just art galleries but Asheville as a Foodtopia. We have a local cuisine with the cornucopia of produce, meats, eggs, cheese and other foods raised on local farms.

With food goes drink. The Wall Street Journal marked Asheville as the new destination for breweries.

Those are the obvious assets we already enjoy.

But Tveidt pointed to interesting concentrations of highly skilled jobs in our backyard we might not think about. We rank second in the nation for occupational therapy aides. We're third for landscape architects. We're fifth for pharmacy aides.

Critical mass in those occupations could drive new business opportunities.

Unfortunately, Asheville is different from many other communities in that most workers earn lower wages here.

There's no great secret to increasing those wages, Tveidt said.

"You are what you make," Tveidt said.

Those communities that can design, manufacture and market higher-value products such as satellite dishes, cutting-edge software, vehicles, medical devices and other items will pay people more.

We need to make more things here in Asheville and Western North Carolina, and market those products better to a larger world that knows us only for the beauty of our mountains.

A new mantra

For years now, we've been holding our breath, waiting for a recovery that never seems to come, waiting for the economy to get better so our jobs will be more secure, or we'll might finally get a raise, or even a better job. We keep waiting on politicians and leaders in Washington and Raleigh to do something to fix the economy. We might be waiting a long time.

I recently heard Emoke B'Racz of Malaprop's Bookstore talk about the future of bookselling at the recent gathering of the N.C. Writers Conference in Swannanoa.

It's all about buying local, B'Racz argued. You have a choice, to go cheap and buy from China, or to invest your dollars in your community.

I like that idea. Buying local has been a mantra in our community for years now. What goes for books goes for local produce and the beer you buy. It goes for local services for your business or the parts for your new product.

Now, we need a new mantra: Build it local. We need to build more solar panel arrays, more satellite receivers. Make something of value for your community and you will be rewarded.

It's our economy, after all. We can't wait for someone else to fix it for us.

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Asheville's Goombay Festival brings the beat to Eagle and Market streets this weekend

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8/26/2011 - Asheville's Goombay Festival brings the beat to Eagle and Market streets this weekend
by Tony Kiss - Asheville Citizen Times

GOOMBAY FESTIVAL THIS WEEKEND in ASHEVILLE!  ENJOY!!

 

            ASHEVILLE -- An African-Caribbean vibe will ring across Asheville's historic Market and Eagle Street district this weekend during the 30th Goombay street party.

Stilt walkers, drummers, dancers, musicians and an assortment of food vendors and craft dealers are featured during what is arguably the city's most colorful downtown festival. As usual, it's presented by the YMI Cultural Center, which is ground zero for the Goombay fun.

The Saturday parade, starting at high noon, looks to be bigger than ever, said Goombay spokeswoman Kendra Turner. "The goal is to have 30 different groups come through," including a car carrying some of the festival's founders.

The Goombay tradition is an ancient one, traced back to Africa and then to the Caribbean. Asheville's celebration began as away to re-energize the Market and Eagle area, once the heart of the city's segregated African-American business district.

The party has grown to become one of the city's centerpiece festivals, and 40,000 to 45,000 merrymakers are expected over the three-day bash. "This is the right size," said Turner. "Some people aren't fans of the bigger festivals."

Music makers

Goombay always features a variety of live performances, including reggae, jazz, soul and gospel. Performers include Nadirah Rahman, Reggae Infinity, Santos, The Meditations, the Carolina Soul Band, Lyric, the Chuck Beattie Band, Durty Soul, the Stanley Baird Group, Zansa and Adama Dembele.

Art mural

Got an artistic urge? Goombay will offer an interactive art mural at the Mobile Art Lab starting at 5 p.m. today. The artwork will be on exhibit through the weekend.

Children's fun

Goombay is always a good place to bring your family. After the parade Saturday, head to the the Children's Fun Zone, open noon-6 p.m. Saturday at the Ray Auditorium at the YMI.

Sweet Sunday

The festival takes on a more spiritual vibe on Sunday, with a 10 a.m. church service on the festival's second stage. Gospel groups are also scheduled to perform Sunday.

Bringing Asheville together

Goombay is the biggest fundraiser for the YMI and a catalyst to draw together people of different backgrounds, said YMI board chairman Richard Fort. "I see people that I don't see as often as I would like,'' Fort said. "It allows a number of multicultural activities to take part."

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Two Western NC Councils receive awards

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8/25/2011 - Two Western NC Councils receive awards
by Blue Ridge Now.com

WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA gets some national attention - AGAIN!!

 

              WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Two Western North Carolina Regional Councils, the Southwestern Commission in Sylva and Land-of-Sky Regional Council in Asheville, have received a 2011 Innovation Award from the National Association of Development Organizations Research Foundation for their work with WNC Communities to help develop and construct the new WNC Regional Livestock Center.

In recent years, some 3,000 area producers and family farmers insisted a long-term, viable market was needed to serve our 19-county mountain region. Southwestern NC Commission and Land-of-Sky Regional Council were at the forefront of the collaboration needed to make this project possible with a result of obtaining $3.1 million dollars to support the project budget. Their efforts assisted in making grant funds available for this project from the following; NC Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, The Golden LEAF Foundation, NC Rural Economic Development Center, Appalachian Regional Commission and NC Agricultural Development Farmland Preservation Trust Fund.

The WNC Regional Livestock Center opened March 2011 with tremendous success having sold over 4,000 head of livestock for an estimated $4 million in the first eight weeks.

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Where the Action Is Part II

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8/25/2011 - Where the Action Is Part II
by Emily Maltby - Wall Street Journal

PART II

 "Where the Action Is," shows several communities across the country that have become hotbeds for certain industries - and that have helped fuel growth in other, related industries.

John Warner/Warner Photography
Operations underway at Highland Brewing.

Take Asheville, N.C., for example, which has 10 local breweries, plus two more under construction. Asheville's ice cream parlors and bakeries - and even a local mustard company called Crooked Condiments - have beer-flavored edibles. Local artists make the tap handles and beer labels.

A start-up called Microbroo LLC specializes in beer shampoos, conditioners and body washes. Brad Pearsall, who founded the company with his wife last year, says the products -- which are as seasonal as the brews -- are not alcoholic thanks to a boiling process used in production. Microbroo currently sources the beer in its products from Highland Brewing Co. Inc., the first brewery to open in Asheville in 1994.

Meanwhile, Hop'n Blueberry Farm, an agro-tourism farm just outside of Asheville, recently started growing hops, a flower that is a key beer ingredient. The hops are transported down the road to Pisgah Brewing Co., where they can be used right away in the company's organic beers. Van Burnette, who runs the farm, says he's getting many tourists who come to sample the beer and learn about the hops.

"They have generated so much interest it's unbelievable," says Mr. Burnette.

Asheville hosts home-brewing contests and several beer festivals each year. That scene draws tourists from near and far who also partake in the Brews Cruise brewery tour and shop in the specialty beer store that has hundreds of labels.

"The ecosystem is supportive, which is why it has grown," says Oscar Wong, founder and president of Highland Brewing. "With this kind of good fortune, you grab a hold and run with it."

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History of Earthquakes in North Carolina

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8/24/2011 - History of Earthquakes in North Carolina
by Anne Blythe - News & Observer

Just to give some more information - and to show this isn't "the norm" for Western North Carolina!!!  Earthquakes rarely happen here, and when they do, we barely feel them.  So forget all that, and come see the leaves - coming soon to a mountain near you!

 

Most people think of California when they hear about earthquakes. But North Carolina has a history with quakes, too. Among them:

March 8, 1735 - The first North Carolina earthquake on record hit near Bath.

1811-1812 - The great earthquakes centered in the Mississippi Valley near New Madrid, Mo., were felt throughout North Carolina.

1874 - Western North Carolina residents, particularly those in McDowell County, could feel the earth move about 75 times between Feb. 10 and April 17.

Jan. 18, 1884 - An earthquake shook houses in Wilmington, rattling crockery off shelves.

Aug. 6, 1885 - Reports of houses rocking violently and dishes rattling near Blowing Rock.

Aug. 31, 1886 - A major earthquake near Charleston, S.C., caused about 60 deaths near the epicenter and widespread property damage. In North Carolina, there were reports of toppled chimneys, fallen plaster and cracked walls in Charlotte, Raleigh, Hillsborough, Elizabethtown, Henderson, Abbottsburg, Waynesville and Whiteville.

Jan. 1, 1913 - Chimneys in Kings Mountain fell from a shock in Union County, S.C. This earthquake was felt in Raleigh - about 180 miles away,

Feb. 21, 1916 - One of the largest earthquakes within North Carolina borders was centered near Asheville. Damage was limited to cracked plaster and falling crockery.

July 8, 1926 - A shock caused a broken water pipeline and cracked building foundations in southern Mitchell County.

Nov. 2, 1928 - A tremor in Asheville created mild panic in a theater and caused damage in upper stories of buildings.

March 5, 1958 - A shock occurred in the Wilmington area near the same place as the 1884 tremor.

Dec. 13, 1969 - A minor earthquake with a sonic boom-like noise awakened many in Jackson County in the western part of the state. Rumbling noises were reported in North Carolina and South Carolina.

June 4, 1998 - A 3.2 magnitude quake shook Davidson, about 20 miles north of Charlotte.

Dec. 9, 2003 - A magnitude 4.5 earthquake recorded about 30 miles west of Richmond, Va., caused ripple effects in Raleigh and other parts of the Triangle.

March 21, 2011 - A magnitude 2.9 earthquake shook portions of four counties southeast of Charlotte, nearly two weeks after the 9.0 quake that devastated Japan.

Read more: http://www.newsobserver.com/2011/08/24/1431920/north-carolina-has-a-long-history.html#ixzz1Vx7sXMlJ

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Where the Action Is

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8/24/2011 - Where the Action Is
by EMILY MALTBY - Wall Street Journal

Looks like Asheville is in pretty good company to build new companies!!

 

SMHUBCVR

SMHUBCVR

Location matters.

It's a lesson that's all too easy to forget in a world driven by mobile devices, cloud computing and home offices. There are big benefits to setting up shop in the right spot--especially among lots of peers in the same field.

Just ask sports-gear makers in Ogden, Utah. Or health-care companies in Nashville. Or nanotechnology researchers in Albany, N.Y.

These cities, and others like them across the country, have become hubs for specific industries. Entrepreneurs are moving there and flourishing in the teeth of a bleak economy. The cities, in turn, are nurturing the entrepreneurs by giving them access to funding, mentors and facilities.

All in all, these clusters can be ideal spots for an entrepreneur in the field. Being there means getting access to a much wider range of suppliers, customers, employees and industry experts. What's more, industry peers are often willing to support each other as they get off the ground, sharing recommendations about staffers, potential sales leads and attractive office space, or giving each other guidance and insight about the industry.

Jeffrey Logsdon can attest to that. Five years ago, he moved his cybersecurity firm from Phoenix to San Antonio--a city that's seeing a surge in business for companies in the field. Company revenue doubled within three years of the move.

"I'd attribute a lot of our success to the location," he says. "I think the availability of cybersecurity talent and the low cost of doing business here has helped us. And because there are so many different cybersecurity companies, we have improved each other's business through partnerships."

As a hub grows, it brings other benefits to small firms. For one thing, even as businesses cooperate, they challenge each other to innovate--to come up with new ideas that make them stand out from the crowd. "Specialization in a region increases patents, business formation and higher wages," says Rich Bryden, director of information products at Harvard Business School, who's working with a team mapping industry hubs in the U.S.

When businesses come together, they also catch the eye of big players with deep pockets--especially beneficial when the economy is weak and financing is limited.

"It's easier to be on the radar for investors when you're part of a critical mass," says John Fernandez, assistant secretary of commerce for economic development at the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

Hubs also catch the eye of government, says Dan Carol, senior fellow at the New Policy Institute think tank in Washington, D.C. A concentration of small firms in the same field is more likely to be recognized on the municipal level, where funding programs and policies can be created to stimulate their growth.

Here's a look at seven up-and-coming innovative centers. All have solid partnerships between the public and private sectors, a growing work force to fuel the industry and long-term strategies for development. And entrepreneurs say being there is vital to their success.

INDIANAPOLIS

LIFE SCIENCES

Indianapolis used to be the quintessential Rust Belt city. Now it's at the center of a statewide boom in the life-sciences business.

[HUB_web_Indiana] Endocyte

Indianapolis is home to big names in the life-sciences field such as Eli Lilly & Co. and health insurer WellPoint.

The state has added 8,800 jobs in the life sciences in recent years, and today some 825 medical-device companies, drug manufacturers and research labs call Indiana home.

Indianapolis, which is home to big names in the field such as Eli Lilly & Co. and health insurer WellPoint Inc., is leading the transformation. Corporations like these have added the lion's share of the state's new life-sciences jobs. Now they're helping smaller companies get off the ground, too--by spinning off new businesses as well as by backing independent start-ups. Eli Lilly, for instance, has contributed roughly $60 million to seed and venture funds that are supporting entrepreneurs.

That isn't the only way big companies are easing the way for small ones. With new firms arriving to supply the large drug makers, start-ups are getting access to a range of services at competitive prices.

"We have access to companies in Indiana where we can outsource functions like toxicology, analytics and clinical supply," says Ron Ellis, president and CEO of Endocyte Inc., a 65-employee firm that's testing a cancer treatment.

Many small firms, meanwhile, are helping others get off to a good start. David Broecker, president and chief executive of BioCritica Inc., an Eli Lilly spinoff, says his peers have referred employees, suggested work space and given information on tax and financial incentives.

It's just the environment he hoped for when he left the East Coast to build a company. He considered other spots but settled on Indianapolis because "it's all new and exciting here for these folks, so there is a hunger for doing this type of thing."

SAN ANTONIO

CYBERSECURITY

Washington, D.C., has usually taken the lead in creating Internet-defense systems. But the Alamo City is poised to give the Beltway a run for its money. There are more than 80 information-technology and cyber-related businesses in San Antonio, and that figure is increasing rapidly, according to the city's Chamber of Commerce.

[HUB_web_SanAnto] Andrew Watson

There are more than 80 information-technology and cyber-related businesses in San Antonio.

Many entrepreneurs are anticipating a flood of government contracts from the new Air Force Cyber Command headquarters in town. The military chose San Antonio in part because the armed forces have always had a strong presence there--and many of the city's workers have security clearances from the Defense Department and the National Security Agency. Another big plus: a stream of skilled graduates from the University of Texas at San Antonio.

But not all the firms in town are counting on government contracts. The city has a growing group of businesses that cater primarily to the private sector, like MainNerve Inc., the company Mr. Logsdon moved to San Antonio. The firm helps health-care companies secure digital records and servers. "The quantity of people here allowed us to show more discernment in our hiring," says Mr. Logsdon. "It was the best place for us to find qualified and certified cybersecurity professionals--and it doesn't hurt that they have military experience." 

ALBANY, N.Y.

NANOTECHNOLOGY

The capital of New York state is becoming a big player in a field that deals with small things--nanotechnology. The city now boasts more than 4,000 people in the industry, centered on the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering at the University at Albany.

[HUB_web_Albany] Mia Ertas/CNSE

Albany is becoming a big player in a field that deals with small things--nanotechnology.

The school has doubled in size during the recession to its current 800,000-square-foot complex. Dozens of nanotechnology companies have established a presence there to take advantage of research facilities and business incubators; since 2008, nearly 50 new start-ups have launched within its walls.

The build-out was part of a state plan, formulated years earlier, to revive the economy in upstate New York. Financing came partly from the state and partly from corporations like International Business Machines Corp., which now have offices there alongside entrepreneurs. That means companies can share the cost of equipment and labor --and start-ups get to associate themselves with big names.

"The prestige of being here and the credibility is amazing, which helps when you are talking with VCs and investors and large companies," says Primal Fernando, CEO and chief technology officer of Resource Management Technology Systems Inc., which moved to Albany from La Junta, Colo., last year. "And the equipment available here is not available elsewhere."

Many companies are launching off-campus, as well, in laboratories that are opening in once-vacant buildings. And financiers and other vital players have been moving in to be a part of the action.

"Venture capital has been growing to feed the innovation," says Alain Kaloyeros, a physics professor and senior vice president of the college. "Suppliers and law firms are moving to the region to support this ecosystem, so it will be quite an exciting venture to watch."

KANSAS CITY

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

Welcome to "Silicon Prairie."

Kansas City, straddling the Kansas and Missouri state line, is home to tech giants like Sprint Nextel Corp. and Cerner Corp., but its industry ranks have been swelling with smaller firms. In 2009, the number of tech companies rose by 5% to 2,900, trumping the growth rates of well-known hubs like Silicon Valley, Boston and Austin, Texas, according to a 2010 study published by the TechAmerica Foundation.

[HUB_web_Kansas] Dataworks, Inc.

Part of what attracts entrepreneurs to Kansas City is a high-speed fiber network from Google, which chose the city over 1,100 others to set up the service.

Part of the lure for entrepreneurs: a high-speed fiber network from Google Inc., which chose Kansas City over 1,100 other cities to set up the service. Expected to roll out next year, the network will run 100 times faster than current broadband, which will likely bolster cloud-based technologies and pave the way for high-definition streaming services that will be hard to find elsewhere.

The Google initiative will be "an excellent platform for innovation," says Bryan Richard, founder of iCode Inc., a Web start-up that posts profiles of software developers. "Everyone in the technology business is talking about it here in town, and everyone wants to do something with it and maximize it."

Entrepreneurs who have relocated from the coasts also tout the friendly business environment. It's far less expensive to build a firm and develop technology, they say, and there are fewer state and city regulations to worry about. And, as in other hubs, many entrepreneurs are helping each other. "Numerous times people have asked me for things I have expertise in and there are times where I call competitors...for specific problems," says Donald Rossberg, president of Dataworks Inc., a technology-support and consulting start-up. "In the end, we all benefit."

ASHEVILLE, N.C.

BEER BREWING

Craft beer is a small industry, but it has a devoted customer base. One Southern town is going after those fans with vigor.

[HUBjump2] John Warner

Craft beer is a small industry, but it has a devoted customer base. Asheville, has 10 breweries, with two on the way.

Asheville, a Blue Ridge Mountain town of 75,000, has 10 breweries, with two on the way. That can't compare with the 40 in Portland, Ore., but it stacks up to other beer havens like Milwaukee and Boulder, Colo., which both have fewer than a dozen. "Asheville is definitely on the map and well recognized in the craft-brewing industry," says Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association in Boulder.

Entrepreneurs new to the area seek mentoring from the established brewmasters and the Asheville Brewers Alliance, formed to exchange ideas and promote the industry. They also tap Blue Ridge Food Ventures, an incubator for developing and commercializing products.

Competition amon g the breweries is a key driver of growth. "Every time a new brewery opens, it has to create its own creative edge, and then the other breweries have to be creative to become relevant again," explains Bill Drew, owner and brewmaster at Craggie Brewing Co. "So it's good when the new guys come in; it keeps the old guys on their toes."

In fact, the beer culture has permeated the town, with a host of businesses cooking up beer-flavored edibles and artists making tap handles and bottle labels. The environment gives brewers a place to source ingredients and fuel creativity. "By local companies teaming together, it's pretty much a win-win," Mr. Drew says.

NASHVILLE, TENN.

HEALTH CARE

Early last year, the federal government passed legislation calling for a host of health-care reforms. And Nashville is poised to benefit from the overhaul.

There are more than 250 health-care companies in the city, and their numbers are rising. Employment in nursing, hospital and ambulatory services jumped 16% between 2004 and 2008, for instance. That, in turn, provides fertile ground for companies that create medical devices and patient-care systems.

[HUB_web_Nashvil] Shareable Ink

There are more than 250 health-care companies in Nashville.

The entrepreneurial spirit "is infectious," says Leon Dowling, founder and chief executive of IMI Health Inc., which collects and organizes health records to give insight into the best patient-care practices. "Within 10 miles of my office, I can have more potential clients than any other city in America."

Last August, the city launched an entrepreneur center to spur innovation; two-thirds of the firms that have sought mentoring and financing are related to health care. State programs have also helped propel the industry. Recently, some $180 million in public funds has been made available to burgeoning firms.

It's an attractive spot for entrepreneurs like Stephen Hau, president and chief executive of Shareable Ink Corp. The company, whose digital pen records doctors' notes and transfers them to an electronic format, launched nearly three years ago in Boston and established a presence in Nashville last year. Today, 60% of the company is in Nashville.

"The community here is so well versed in health care that it keeps us plugged in to the key issues and how to resolve them," says Mr. Hau. "And in terms of the investment community today, people are careful about where they place their bets. Being here, [investors] see we are aligned with thought leaders."

OGDEN, UTAH

OUTDOOR SPORTS

Ogden, a small city some 40 miles north of the capital, packs a concentrated punch in the outdoor and recreation industry.

[HUB_web_Ogden] Goode Skis

Ogden packs a concentrated punch in the outdoor and recreation industry.

Ogden made headlines in 2002, when it hosted events for the Salt Lake City Olympic Games. Those Olympic facilities, along with acres of pristine mountains, canyons and rivers, are the main reason outdoor-apparel and equipment companies have been moving to town: The site offers a perfect spot for testing new products, and it's easily accessible from a nearby airport that supports direct flights to Europe. What's more, business owners say, the growing base of competing companies in the area push each other to design the best equipment.

Utah has a relatively modest share of the industry; the state estimates it's home to about 5% of the outdoor-products firms in the U.S. Still, companies that expanded in or relocated to Utah have created at least 2,550 jobs in the past six years, according to the Economic Development Corporation of Utah.

Industry goliaths get partial credit for the surge in Ogden. Amer Sports Corp., the company behind Wilson, Atomic and other brands, consolidated its U.S. operations in 2007 and moved them to the town. Quality Bicycle Products Inc., a distributor based in Bloomington, Minn., set up its second location in Ogden in 2010.

Quality's founder, Steve Flagg, liked the growing retailer base, easy access to the West Coast and strong labor pool. But, he says, "the game changer was the transformation that the city was going through," as other companies moved in, and the local government actively recruited more.

Local leaders are also helping start-ups like Kahuna Creations Inc., a longboard, surfboard and landpaddle company, launch and grow. Kahuna founder Steve McBride says the mayor's office helped him land funding and find a low-rent facility in 2008. The company has grown 30% to 50% annually.

"You get a network of people who really want to help," Mr. McBride says. "We've been flourishing here."

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