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Asheville's renaissance: How did we get here, will it continue?

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10/2/2009 - Asheville's renaissance: How did we get here, will it continue?
by Asheville Citizen Times

Asheville has come a long way since I was a boy growing up in Western North Carolina. Not all that long ago, downtown was a place you did not go often, and certainly not at night. Many of our currently cool, unique, quirky call it what ever adjective you will places like Lexington Avenue and Wall Street, were mostly boarded up.

Back then, no one was saying, Lets keep Asheville the way it is. Asheville the way it was meant dying, dingy and dirty. Frankly, no one really cared much about downtown. I know many of you reading this did not grow up here, and must find this statement hard to believe. Asheville was not always this way.
How did we get where we are today? On the backs of entrepreneurs. Now we call them visionaries; back then they were simply nuts. Many of them opened a small business in an abandoned downtown. They took huge risks, went against convention and even common sense a common trend among entrepreneurs. They invested their blood, sweat, tears and precious greenbacks to pursue their passion and follow their hopes and dreams. In doing so, many failed and lost it all. But by their collective efforts, our city became all we know and love today.
Entrepreneurial spirit
What was it that helped all those entrepreneurs and visionaries create what we enjoy today? Well, certainly, it was the spirit of the entrepreneurs themselves. I suggest they were much like those in our nations infancy who headed west to make a better life for themselves. They did not know exactly what to expect; they did not know how they would make it. But they had themselves to rely on. They created their own sustainability, if you will. They were not scared of the risk. Their passion for something better drove them. We owe a collective debt of gratitude to the pioneers who took those risks.
Where would our nation be without them? Where would our city be without them? Werent the entrepreneurs who started Ashevilles current renaissance (not our first by the way) doing essentially the same thing? Sure they were, and like those who headed west we owe those entrepreneurs and risk-takers our gratitude for what we have, and often take for granted today. Look what happened in the last 10 years here when our modern entrepreneurs went west West Asheville that is another renaissance. It is because of all of them, success or not, that Asheville appears on many top 10 lists. Beautiful mountains and our natural world: thank God. Great restaurants: thank the entrepreneurs. Great art: thank the entrepreneurs. Great shopping: thank the entrepreneurs you get the idea.
Many now say, Lets keep Asheville the way it is. I think this would be the beginning of our demise, and it has happened to Asheville before. We must continue to grow, but before you stop reading, I am not suggesting we cut down all the trees and pave over everything. I am suggesting that to continue our renaissance, we must embrace the entrepreneurs who got us here. We must not lose, but vigilantly protect, and continue to create a culture and an environment so that entrepreneurs can thrive. They will take the risks and invest their hearts and souls. If you love Asheville, it is your job to support them, and in doing so, you will keep our renaissance alive.
Local support vital
So, how do you support an entrepreneur? There are so many ways:
Buy local. It might be cheaper online, but the cost to Asheville could be the loss of small businesses and jobs.

Streamline government. Ensure our local government makes it easy for entrepreneurs to do business.
Dine in our local restaurants and cook with products from local farms.
Invite your friends and family to visit Asheville.
Experience and purchase art from Asheville.
Support those organizations that help create and grow small business, such as the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, Mountain BizWorks and A-B Techs Small Business Center.
Visit our River Arts District. Theres an exciting renaissance going on right now down by the river. Play in the parks or go to an artists workshop.
Welcome new small businesses with open arms. Say thanks to the entrepreneur, not just for the service you receive, but for contributing to the fabric of Asheville. Everybodys talking about sustainability now. Green is everywhere. By supporting entrepreneurs, we can guarantee Ashevilles sustainability.
Love Asheville? Thank the entrepreneurs.

John Mark Stroud is a local, an entrepreneur and lover of Asheville.

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