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Asheville life is good even in down economy, Dale Neal says



6/12/2012 - Asheville life is good even in down economy, Dale Neal says
by Dale Neal - Asheville Citizen Times

It's summertime and the living ain't easy, no matter what the old Gershwin song says.

For the past three summers, we've seen this same pattern. The economy looks to be shaking off its doldrums as the weather improves but then runs out of steam before the thermometer hits 90.

Last week saw the worst jobs report in a while with the national unemployment rate headed back in the wrong direction. Only 69,000 new jobs were created in May, and job creation estimates were revised downward for the previous two months.

Meanwhile, Mark Zuckerberg couldn't get all that investors to like his Facebook IPO, which flopped dismally. Stocks took a nose dive.

With Greece about to default, plenty of pain in Spain and recession deepening elsewhere in Europe, it looks as if the euro is about to implode.

Economists may be better off saying: "We don't know when the recovery is going to finally turn the corner."

But all those are national and international headlines. Asheville isn't immune to those bumps in a global economy, but as local economist Tom Tveidt points out, we have our own economy here with our strengths and challenges.

Our unemployment rate in Buncombe County stood at 7.3 percent in April, down from 7.7 percent in March, better than the state rate of 9.1 percent or the national rate of 8.3 percent. Unfortunately, the month showed the labor force continuing to shrink, suggesting too many people have simply given up looking for work. We're doing better than some communities, but these still aren't boom times.

But looking beyond the numbers, Asheville is blessed with plenty of creative people. Even in the midst of a slow recovery and grim headlines, some of Asheville's resourceful companies, breweries and restaurants, and others are providing livelihoods for entrepreneurs and their employees.

That's what impressed Jan Getz, when she moved down from Pittsburgh about a year and a half ago. Getz is part of the current Leadership Asheville class, trying to learn more how she can serve her adopted community.

For the past 30 years, Leadership Asheville has sought out innovative thinkers and doers, grooming them for the next generation of civic leaders, Getz said.

She chaired the committee tasked with coming up with ideas for the 2012 Asheville Buzz breakfast series.

"What impressed us was all the innovation going on in Asheville," Getz said.

Look around, and you'll see plenty of innovative businesses popping up to serve outdoor enthusiasts, beer lovers and just about anyone who loves to eat a good meal.

Leadership Asheville hopes to make those stories better known with the kickoff of the Breakfast Buzz series 7:30-9:30 a.m. June 19 at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Asheville. For ticket information, call 348-0673 or click on buzz/

The region's growing outdoor industry will be featured with Abby Burt of Navitat Canopy Adventures, Holly Colson of Cane Creek Cycling Components, Charles Connor of Nantahala Outdoor Center and Tom Reeder of Sylvan Sport.

Until she started recruiting experts for the panel, Getz said she wasn't aware of just how many recreational businesses had sprung up in the area. Sylvan Sport, the maker of unique pop-up campers in Brevard, particularly caught her eye. "That's just so cool."

The July 17 breakfast will focus on "Beer, Barrels, & Bottles: Asheville's Liquid Assets," showcasing Oscar Wong of Highland Brewery, Julie Atallah of Bruisin' Ales, Leadership Asheville grad Mike Rangel of Asheville Pizza and Brewing, and Brian Grossman of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

On Aug. 21, the breakfast series will bite into Asheville's thriving "Foodtopia," with a panel drawn from Jamie Ager of Hickory Nut Gap Farm, Peter Pollay of Posana Cafe and Dan Rattigan of the French Broad Chocolate Lounge.

In that lineup of companies, you can see plenty of jobs dedicated to serving up enjoyment for residents and visitors alike, whether they're savoring the outdoors or Asheville's array of fine microbrews and local foods.

It's summertime, and even in the midst of a grim economy, life in Asheville is still awfully good for most folks. People will always want to enjoy the outdoors and eat and drink good food and brew. So amid all the gloom about the global economy, there's a glimmer of good news, at least locally, when you look at paychecks and products that are generated by Asheville's unique assets.

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