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Economic developers head to Asheville for conference



6/15/2011 - Economic developers head to Asheville for conference
by Dale Neal - Asheville Citizen Times

THE economy needs all the good ideas it can get!  Business leaders coming to the mountains to strategize can only help in giving fresh life to the area in terms of business creation and sustainable growth for Western North Carolina.


ASHEVILLE -- Communities generally have three ways to get new jobs: Recruit businesses to relocate, grow the businesses you already have or seed new businesses with entrepreneurs.

Professionals attending this week's annual conference of the N.C. Economic Developers Association in Asheville will focus on job growth through entrepreneurship and innovation, hoping to bring the best practices back to their communities.

About 300 economic developers from around the state will meet Tuesday through Thursday at the Grove Park Inn.

Entrepreneurship is a timely topic for developers, said Scott Hamilton, president and CEO of AdvantageWest, the regional economic development agency for the mountains.

While recruiters still hunt for large companies to relocate to WNC, "AdvantageWest saw early on that we would have to rely on our resourcefulness. Entrepreneurship has been a part of our culture," Hamilton said.

"As the economy turned down and people have had hard times finding jobs, there's naturally been more emphasis on starting small businesses and how to support and grow them," he said.

A past president of the association, Hamilton will speak to his colleagues about the successes of AdvantageWest's Certified Entrepreneurial Community program, which encourages small towns and rural counties to become more business-friendly for startup companies.

"We will showcase the best case examples in both urban and rural areas, and we think there are lessons that can be learned," said Bonnie Renfro, president of the Randolph County Economic Development Corp., and vice president of the economic developers association.

Steve Miller of The Biltmore Co. will also speak about the success of the family-owned Biltmore Estate, which was developed more than a 100 years ago by George W. Vanderbilt as America's largest private house and has grown into a major attraction for Asheville visitors.

The N.C. Economic Developers Association has about 600 members statewide.

In years past, its conferences have been held in the urban center of the state or along the coast, Renfro said.

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