Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts published in “Economy”

Come Hell or High Water, Asheville Is Climate “Winner”

Back in 2006, when Scott Shuford was Asheville’s planning director, he reluctantly accepted a friend’s invitation to attend a meeting about the impact of climate change on local governments. 

“I didn’t see how a two-degree temperature change could affect the community,” he recalled, referring to the predicted rise in earth temperatures in years to come. “But I agreed to attend, thinking it would only be about 15 minutes. 

“After about an hour-and-a-half I came out of the meeting drenched in sweat.”

All the plans he had drafted up to that day suddenly seemed to have overlooked an unsettled future fraught with unanticipated challenges. Those two degrees of temperature change meant greater threats of weather extremes — of torrential rains, devastating floods, and landslides, and of their opposites, extended drought and wildfire. 

“We weren’t ready,” Shuford said of Asheville’s infrastructure at the time.

READ MORE

Black Home Ownership and the Promise of Reparations

Priscilla Ndiaye Robinson looked across the empty fields where her Southside neighborhood once thrived. “It’s all gone,” she said. “One thousand two hundred businesses and homes were lost.” 

The neighborhood, where approximately half of Asheville’s Black population lived, suffered major upheaval under Asheville’s urban renewal program in the 1970s and 1980s, one of the largest urban renewal projects in the Southeastern United States. 

Ndiaye Robinson’s memories of childhood delights — a neighbor’s cupcakes, playing with chickens, charging up the grassy hills — are tainted by sadness and umbrage at what happened. “It broke up a loving community. It tore up families,” she recalled.

Priscilla Ndiaye Robinson

For Asheville’s Black residents it, urban renewal also undercut the foundation of generational wealth and dashed a revered piece of the American Dream. Predominantly Black neighborhoods were razed to make way for proposed highways or real estate ventures,

READ MORE

Reparations, Six Months Later: So Far, Empty Promises

Six months ago, as part of a reckoning on racial injustice, the City of Asheville and Buncombe County both passed resolutions to consider reparations to the Black community as a way to begin making amends for slavery and generations of systemic discrimination. The votes were hailed as “historic” by The Asheville Citizen Times, and ABC News asked, “Is Asheville a national model?”

Since then, local officials concede, little has been done. Some in the Black community see zero progress.

“From my understanding, they’ve done nothing,” said Rob Thomas, community liaison for the Racial Justice Coalition. 

Despite the fanfare they received at the time, the reparations resolutions are in limbo, still as lacking in specific remedies as they are in financial commitment or engagement with the Black community. The Asheville resolution called for the creation of a Community Reparations Commission to begin drafting recommendations.

READ MORE

How Tech Can Help Asheville’s Economy

In 2019, if you were to ask anyone what drove Asheville’s economy, they’d tell you beer, arts and crafts, outdoor recreation, hotels and restaurants. In short, tourism. 

Today, with those businesses only just beginning to ramp back up and tourists staying home, talk of diversifying Asheville’s economy is picking up. Local technology businesses and the rise of technology-based work-from-home jobs may be part of the solution. 

Asheville already has a tech sector, albeit a small one with only 1% of the job market and approximately 1,900 jobs. But with an average salary of nearly $58,000 a year, according to ZipRecruiter, Western North Carolina tech jobs are good ones. And, more jobs are coming.

Charles Edward Industries (CEI), a minority-owned electronics manufacturer, in concert with the Buncombe County Commission, Asheville City Council, and the Economic Development Coalition for Asheville-Buncombe County (EDC),

READ MORE

Asheville’s Soul Threatened

The pandemic that left thousands of Asheville workers unemployed has been particularly hard on the artists, musicians and performers who help define the city’s character.

“Lots of people have been broken by this — people that live day to day, week to week, month to month,” said artist David Achenbaugh of Blue Ridge Gems, who has been selling his jewelry at the Grove Arcade Outdoor Maker’s Market for 17 years. “I worked my whole life. Every day, I’d go out and go to work, and I can’t even provide for myself or my family now. 

“All my street artist people are hurting,” he said.

Ed Rowles

The normally bustling Grove Arcade Outdoor Maker’s Market is quiet without artist vendors and foot traffic.

The long-term impact could alter the very fabric of Asheville. 

The soul of the city – its many talented and quirky artists and small business owners —

READ MORE

The Fear of Re-Opening: Small Business Owners Opt Out

Asheville retailers finally received approval to reopen Friday after seven weeks of forced closure, but some are choosing to remain closed.

Their biggest fear: exposing themselves and their employees to the coronavirus. Patrons are advised to abide by social distancing, but wearing masks is not required under Buncombe’s order, and few downtown visitors appear to be complying.

Betsey-Rose Weiss, owner of American Folk Art & Framing at 64 Biltmore Ave., is choosing  to stay shut. Her fears went back to March 17, the day she temporarily closed. Gallery visitors “were touching things, even though I asked them not to,” she said. “People were trying to hand me cups for me to throw away for them.”

Biltmore Ave.

As re-opening neared, she emailed her concerns to Fletcher Tove, emergency preparedness coordinator for Buncombe County Health and Human Services,

READ MORE