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Category Archives: Asheville Local News

Work begins on downtown Asheville AC Hotel

Buncombe Commissioners approve $1.3 million for Enka-Candler sports complex

Enka-Candler sports complex

After an hour-long discussion and seven stipulations, Buncombe County commissioners approved donating $1.3 million to help fund a new Enka-Candler sports complex — although one commissioner described the proposal as a “little outside the norm.”

Enka-Candler sports complexThe Enka-Candler sports complex would consist of seven baseball fields on 90 acres near Interstate 40 at the former Enka/BASF manufacturing site. The land will be donated by Fletcher Partners, and the complex will be built and maintained by the Enka Youth Sports Organization (EYSO), a nonprofit created in the last few weeks. Buncombe’s $1.3 million would go to EYSO, which has not yet achieved its official 501(c)3 status.

“I think it’s a sound plan,” said Commissioner Holly Jones. “That said, we’re getting to [fund] a nonprofit where the ink’s not dry [on its status], there’s no financials to look at, so we’re kind of going out here on faith with a big dollar amount. I believe in you, but I just wanted to say that in terms of transparency and accountability that [what we’re doing] is outside of our norm.”

According to project progenitor and Fletcher Partners member Martin Lewis, the Enka-Candler sports complex will be entirely self-sustaining, if everything goes according to plan: “We would have sponsored fields, banners in the outfields, and we would also have tournament teams that would be coming in.”

The plan, according to Lewis, calls for hosting travel baseball and softball teams on the weekend, and paying for field upkeep with concessions, ticket prices and sponsorships. During the week, the fields would be open to the public, ideally for free, as long as public users cleaned up after themselves, he explained. This would enable the facility to remain solvent without further county support.

Buncombe’s $1.3 million funding came with four stipulations initially: that the spec building (from which the donation money is coming) sells to a private investor, that the EYSO secures the donated 90 acres from Fletcher Partners, that the EYSO garners $2.4 million from the Tourism Development Fund, and that EYSO secures $1 million in private donations. As of Sept. 2, about $750,000 had already been raised.

Commissioners added three more conditions.

Commissioner David King added an amendment that calls for EYSO to build a greenway, at a cost of about $125,000.

During the public-comment period on the proposal, Buncombe County Board of Education member Lisa Baldwin noted concerns about environmental safety. Thirty of the 90 acres sits on a closed landfill, and other land rests on the Hominy Creek floodway.

“We were comfortable,” Lewis assured commissioners. “After looking at the property and doing due diligence … we were O.K. with that.”

Nonetheless, Commissioner Joe Belcher put forth an amendment requiring that the environmental report be supplied to the Board and studied by staff as part of the conditions for the $1.3 million dollar donation.

Commissioner Brownie Newman raised concerns about the future of the facility. “In the long run … are there things we should be thinking about on the front end to ensure, when none of us are sitting here, that there is some long-term public accountability? … What if, in 30 years, this land is worth $50 million, and it’s converted from a public to a private purpose? I just want to make sure that this board is set up so that won’t happen.”

After some discussion, the commissioners added one more condition:  If in the future the nonprofit wants to change the use of the land from recreational sports, the Board of Commissioners would have to approve the change. This amendment brought the total number of conditions to seven.

Conditions in place, the motion to award the $1.3 million passed 7-0 for the new Enka-Candler sports complex.

Other business:

• County Manager Wanda Greene presented a few points regarding the county’s retirement incentive. So far, 131 employees have chosen to take the incentive, and will be leaving the county after Sept. 30 if they haven’t already left. Greene said it would take a few weeks to get all the savings information together. “We are losing a lot of institutional memory,” she said. “It’s been a little bit tougher than we expected, but I think everybody’s happy with the results.”

• The Board unanimously approved closing an unopened road in Candler. The road, Oak Street, was prepared by the county but never completed and opened, and the property owners along the road petitioned for it to be closed completely.

• The County had two “Good News” items. The first was a proclamation by Holly Jones to representatives of Minority Enterprise Development week, which is in its 31st year in Asheville. MED Week runs Sept. 8-14. The second was a presentation by the Asheville Humane Society, which saved a record 5,599 animals in the previous fiscal year and has not had to euthanize an animal since 2010.

Foodie vacation destination: The Admiral in Asheville, N.C.

Go For the Food is a weekly AP food and travel series about food as a driver of tourism.

BY LINDSEY TANNER

ASHEVILLE, N.C. | In downtown Asheville, good restaurants are as handsomely conspicuous as the artsy boutiques and bodegas that give the Blue Ridge Mountain mecca its trendy, vibrant flair.

IF YOU GOCooks @ The Admiral

The Admiral: 400 Haywood Road, West Asheville, N.C., 828-252-2541SunnyPointCafe

Sunny Point Cafe: 626 Haywood Road, West Asheville, N.C., 828-252-0055

Across the French Broad River, in West Asheville? Not so much. This is the funkier side of town, where families, artists and workers live in frame bungalows lining narrow, hilly side streets, and the main drag, Haywood Road, has an earthier, slightly gritty feel.

That's why driving down Haywood, you're more apt to notice the gas station across the street than the squat cinder block building that houses The Admiral.

"Chances are, you will pass us at least three times. You won't be able to find a good parking place," said Admiral co-owner Drew Wallace.

When The Admiral opened in 2007, Wallace and business partner Jonathan Robinson called this "the wage-earning side of town" and their aim was to create a successful dive bar/unexpected restaurant. It has more than met their desires. West Asheville has blossomed since those early days, and The Admiral has morphed from a neighborhood tavern into a destination restaurant, but it still feels like a wonderfully hidden gem.

Reservations are a must, unless you want to sit at the bar and are willing to wait. But those are the best seats in the small, dimly lit space. That's where you get the best view of the open, galley kitchen, where a quartet of chefs busily cook up small plates of unforgettable mussels, bathed in a slightly smoky sauce of San Marzano tomatoes; entrees like meaty, barbecue sauced pork chops with collard greens and root vegetable gratin; or an other-worldly version of steak frites, featuring black Angus rib-eye, sweet potato chips, green beans and quail egg salad. Desserts might include a sinfully delicious chocolate mousse with cherry clotted cream and red wine cherry sauce, but the eclectic menu changes regularly, so prepare for the unexpected.

"There is really no straightforward summary of our style" Wallace says. "The food tends to be a little more experimental than most of our peers." And much of it is locally sourced from family-owned businesses.

The slightly kitschy decor includes a neon "Dive" sign in one corner, a handful of industrial-looking hanging lamps and black-clad, tattooed and welcoming servers.

There are no uppity attitudes at The Admiral, and that's partly what draws Boomers, hipsters, business execs and obvious out-of-towners. Most appetizers and small plates cost $12 or less, and entrees run up to $30. On Friday and Saturday nights, tables are pushed aside at 10 p.m. for dance parties.

Also on Haywood Road is the informal Sunny Point Cafe, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but best known for amazingly fluffy and delicious biscuits and legendary waits for breakfast and brunch.

Sierra Nevada gets closer to rolling out beer and opening

While there still is more work to do before full-scale production commences, Sierra Nevada has achieved a spot-on flavor match between its two top-selling brands produced in Mills River and at the company’s Chico, Calif. brewery.

Sierra Nevada Pale AleSierra Nevada Pale Ale and Torpedo Extra IPA — the No. 2-selling craft beer in the U.S. and top-selling IPA in the country, respectively — are now being brewed and bottled at the Mills River plant, but company spokesman Ryan Arnold said they are “still probably a couple of months out before we’re really pushing things out the door.”

Sierra Nevada’s quality-control process is a rigorous one, with up to 150 checks conducted in its high-tech research and development lab. The company says it tests everything from raw ingredients and water chemistry to full-spectrum molecular analysis to determine if its beer “has a potential for off-flavors before it ever makes it out of the kettle or fermenter.” The company also is splitting shipments of malt and hops between Mills River and Chico to eliminate variability from batch to batch and ensure consistency between the two breweries.

In addition, Arnold said, a Sierra Nevada team of professionals with “highly developed sensory capabilities” taste-tests fermenter samples and packaged beer three times a week for final approval. Samples of Mills River beer are shipped overnight to Chico, and then analyzed and discussed via video conference by panels on both coasts before final approval is given.

“We have hit one or two home runs with some of the batches of Pale Ale and Torpedo, but we’re extremely quality-driven, so one or two home runs isn’t quite enough; we’re looking for a home run on every swing,” Arnold said. “So it is going to take some more time and some more test brewing, and that’s just two brands.”

Sierra Nevada, the country’s second-largest craft beer maker that was named one of the top 100 breweries in the world this month by the consumer-rating website Ratebeer.com, also will be brewing several other year-round and seasonal beers in Mills River, including some of its High Altitude Series brews.

“We also need time to nail some of those other brands,” Arnold said. “So while we can kind of celebrate and appreciate that we’re nailing it with some of these test batches of Pale Ale and Torpedo, it’s still an exercise in patience to being able to ship beer out of there.”

Sierra Nevada's Mills River NC PlantThe company also is busy testing and refining procedures for the Mills River plant to serve as a new distribution hub by sending Chico-brewed beer to Mills River, storing it in a refrigerated warehouse and then shipping orders to regional distributors.

“That, too, is going to take a little time to work out any kinks so that we’ll be able to cover the majority of the East Coast,” Arnold said, adding that a rail spur similar to the one in Chico has been set up to limit travel for delivery trucks to within a couple miles of the brewery.

Brewery eyes August opening

Meanwhile, Western North Carolina residents and officials are gearing up for the opening the brewery to the public later this year. The $100 million facility on the French Broad River is expected to be among the most technologically advanced, aesthetically impressive and visitor-friendly breweries in the world, with a focus on alternative energy, environmentally conscious construction, reforestation and river quality monitoring and protection.

The company announced this month that installation of its parking lot solar array, featuring nearly 200 individual panels, had recently been completed and will complement a much larger rooftop array.

Beth Cardin, executive director of the Henderson County Tourism Development Authority, said that while her department is monitoring the Sierra Nevada project before highlighting the brewery in printed literature, officials are promoting it verbally in the Visitors Center. And, according to Cardin, the next installment of the Hendersonville Vacation Planner also will dedicate an editorial page to the growing beer and wine industries in the area.

“We’re expecting it to impact our tourism tremendously this year — the last half of the year, anyway,” she said of the impending Sierra Nevada opening. “We think it’s going to be an overnight success; we don’t think it’s going to take long to let people know that they’re up and running.”

Arnold said the company hopes to open its doors by August, aiming for a grand opening that would coincide with the culmination of Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp Across America tour this summer.

“The whole process has been a whirlwind,” Arnold said. “We’re trying to build a world-class facility rather quickly, when it comes down to it. August is probably an ambitious goal, but that’s what we’re hoping — where we can have a pub and tour team and other pieces of the brewery experience all complete so we can welcome folks in.”

The Beer Camp Across America project will also feature a first-of-its-kind, variety 12-pack of beers that will be produced in collaboration with a dozen of the country’s most acclaimed breweries at both Sierra Nevada breweries. Representatives from those breweries, including Oskar Blues and the Asheville Brewers Alliance consortium, have been traveling to Chico the past couple months designing and brewing the test pilot batches of their respective brews.

Sierra Nevada’s progress in Mills River comes as the company has unleashed a bevy of new, innovative products to the national market, while initial reports of craft beer’s 2013 performance last week suggest continued growth for the industry.

According to a report in USA Today, craft beer production grew by 9.6 percent last year, from 178 million cases to 195 million. This despite total U.S. beer sales receding by 1.4 percent — including a 3.5 percent decrease in light beer and 2.4 percent drop in overall mainstream domestic beer volume — as American consumers thirst for fuller-flavored, locally made brews.

Another report by the Beer Institute released last week said that 2013 saw a record 3,700 breweries nationwide as permitted by the Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (which includes breweries that are not yet operational). That includes 114 breweries in North Carolina — or 32 more than in 2012 — which ranks the Tar Heel State No. 10 in the country.

Premier Distributor of Outdoor Recreation Products Locates in Asheville

SportHansa
In conjunction with the Economic Development Coalition for Asheville-Buncombe County (EDC) and Venture Asheville, Sport Hansa LLC, a premier importer and distributor of European outdoor product brands, today announced its relocation to Asheville.  The firm’s expanded distribution center will allow for continued growth and expansion of product lines that today include Helle knives of Norway, Kupilka camping dishware of Finland, Montane technical outerwear and Terra Nova tents of the United Kingdom, as well as Wetterlings Axe Works of Sweden.  The three-year-old company will locate at 10 Business Park Circle in Arden.

“As we continued to expand our customer base and add further European brands, we looked for a location that offered key attributes such as a business friendly environment and a cluster of other important players in the outdoor industry. After an extensive search, Asheville continually came up at the top of our list,” stated Matt Huff, Managing Director of Sport Hansa. The company is relocating its headquarters and distribution operations from Longmont, Colorado.

Additionally, the firm announced the appointment of a new Director of Marketing and Inside Sales. Formerly with North Carolina based Diamond Brand Outdoors, John Stephens will be tasked with designing and implementing programs to better support the company’s 220 outdoor retail customers in the USA and Canada.

“The arrival of Sport Hansa fulfills two strategic goals of the Asheville 5×5 and Venture Asheville initiatives,” said EDC Chairman Paul Szurek. “The company will create sustainable jobs and investment in the outdoor products sector, while becoming another effective participant in our entrepreneurial community. Both groups are advantageous for long-term job growth.”

“We’re proud to welcome the Huff family and Sport Hansa to Asheville,” said David Gantt, Chairman of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners. “These products have a reputation for quality and craftsmanship in the outdoor recreation arena and are a great fit for Buncombe County.”

Loran Evans, President and Owner of Asheville-based Rightline Gear, also welcomed the company and the growth of the outdoor products industry. “This announcement is great news for the growing outdoor gear community in Asheville. Our city is the perfect spot for Sport Hansa to grow its business.”

The move also coincides with the announcement of two new manufacturer representatives. Summit Sales and Campbell Sports will represent Helle Norwegian knives and Wetterlings Swedish axes in the Southeast and Mountain regions respectively. For more information on Sport Hansa and product sales, please visit www.sport-hansa.com

The EDC for Asheville-Buncombe County is a public-private partnership committed to: creating and retaining high quality jobs, community leadership, and being a resource for better business decisions. The EDC accomplishes this mission through its four core services: business retention and expansion, small business and entrepreneurship, research, and marketing and recruitment. The EDC is funded by Buncombe County, the City of Asheville, the Town of Weaverville, the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce and the AVL 5×5 Campaign.

The Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce is a member organization with over 1,800 member businesses and organizations. Chamber members collaborate with community organizations and coalitions to support the community and each other with the mission of building community through business. The Chamber is home to a 4,000 square foot Visitor Center which welcomes over 195,000 visitors per year.

GE Aviation Expansion Highlighted in Site Selection Magazine

Site Selection Magazine- September 2013

Mark Arend

Sometimes A State Really Does Have the Best Work Force

GEnx LH 747-8

GE Aviation picks an underdog location for its ceramic matrix composite plant, lifting the fortunes of four Tar Heel communities, not just one.

Talk about a vote of confidence. GE Aviation is investing nearly $200 million in four North Carolina sites primarily because of the state’s work force.

One of the locations — Asheville — will be home to a new, $125-million plant for producing Ceramic Matrix Composite (CMC) components for the next-gen LEAP commercial aircraft engines being developed by CFM, a joint venture of GE Aviation and French aerospace concern Snecma. Composites are used routinely in aircraft manufacturing, but CMC is the first composite being used in the hot section, or core, of the engine. GE will produce a stationary component called a turbine shroud initially. Less air is required to cool the part, so more air is applied to propulsion, making the engine more efficient. More CMC components will follow.

Meanwhile, GE Aviation is also investing in its facilities in Durham, where the engines are assembled, and in West Jefferson and Wilmington, where components are manufactured. The company has invested in building up its supply of skilled workers in the state and is no hurry to lose them.

“Every state will tell you they have the best work force,” says Kelly Walsh, a GE Aviation spokeswoman familiar with the CMC facility site search, which involved locations in 12 states. “They all come to the table with that. North Carolina’s proven record was really the tipping point. We have a hard time finding the skilled labor we need to fill jobs. So when we have a track record of success like we have had in North Carolina, we will do everything we can to stay there.”

The new Asheville facility is being built on a former Old Dominion Trucking site adjacent to GE Aviation’s existing plant, which will be re-purposed over time for additional CMC work. Employees at that plant were thrilled to learn their jobs were secure and that their new workspace would be at virtually the same location they were already in.

‘Pivotal’ Supply Chain State

Logistics is a close second to labor in GE’s North Carolina play, says Walsh.

“North Carolina is a big deal to our supply chain, and we wanted to be able to really gear up for executing on a record order backlog across all four of those sites,” she says. Orders already are on the books for more than 4,500 LEAP engines from airlines around the world awaiting delivery of next-generation Boeing 737 MAX, Airbus A320neo and COMAC C919 aircraft. “We definitely look to North Carolina as a very pivotal part of our supply chain. Outside of headquarters in Ohio, it’s probably one of the most important states to us.”

Walsh says GE Aviation will break ground on 125,000-sq.-ft. (11,600-sq.- m.) facility in Asheville later this year and will be shipping certified parts from there in 2014. “I think we are ahead of the curve in the industry in doing this,” she notes. “The other North Carolina sites will keep doing what they do, but every facility has to prepare for this new LEAP engine. The CMC work is unique to Asheville, but the upgrades at West Jefferson, Wilmington and Durham are so we can increase our capacity for LEAP.”

Asheville was the best candidate for the new CMC plant of the four North Carolina options, says Walsh. “We had a vision for each site. We are constantly evaluating workload throughout all 80 of our sites in the supply chain on quality and cost,” she relates. “Our supply chain leader always has said the North Carolina shops are some of the best. They are focused, they have an entrepreneurial spirit, and the work force is great, on time and on cost. So we had a vision for all four of them that included growth. Asheville was a key site to repurpose, because the existing work being done there wasn’t the highest value work. But we worked across the sites in North Carolina, and the localities really made this happen.” Asheville and Buncombe County are clearly among those.

“There was a lot of competition surrounding this particular location for the CMC work that will be done here,” says Ben Teague, senior vice president of the Asheville-Buncombe County Economic Development Coalition. “We think it will unlock hundreds of millions of dollars of further development opportunities.”

Teague says his team knew in mid- 2012 that a significant project was getting organized, and by December, discussions were under way. “We knew there was significant competition from what we knew to be Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Ohio, Delaware and several other states. It became known as Project CMC, because that’s what we were told would be produced.”

Against the Odds

GE Aviation’s internal methodology for scoring potential investment locations had Asheville in the least desirable position, with its saving grace being its work force, says Teague. “They told us this investment would put us in the best possible position for future investment,” he notes, “that not only would our work force continue to work, but their grandkids would be working on this technology. It would have a multigenerational effect on the community.

“We knew they meant business. We knew we were in trouble. And we knew we had to do something to win,” says Teague. “We also knew they wanted to stay at a location where they already were and that they wanted to expand.” The Asheville site would make that very difficult. Negotiations with the owner of the existing facility fell through, and other options in the area were not practical.

Old Dominion agreed to sell its site next to GE Aviation and be relocated as long as its operations were uninterrupted. “Before we could even start construction on the GE Aviation site, we had to build Old Dominion’s entire building and move them to their new location.” And GE wasn’t going to budge on when it wanted its new CMC plant operational. (The deal with Old Dominion was essentially a swap. The county would buy a new site and build the company a building, and Old Dominion gave the county its former site.) One more hurdle: “In North Carolina, counties do not have a design-build process, but we got legislation passed to allow us to do a design-build for the county. Kudos to our local delegation in the state legislature for helping to make that happen.”

Had Old Dominion not agreed to the deal, GE Aviation’s CMC production would be taking shape in another city, if not state. “North Carolina would have lost,” says Teague. “This technology being here in Asheville is the crux of the state expansion.

“GE views us as a partner,” he adds. “They will tell you that the work force that is on site now at GE is very innovative and very productive relative to other plants, and that helps make them profitable. That’s part of what kept them looking at Asheville.”

Project X?

Teague says the approval process for a $2.7-million incentives package and a $15-million building purchase was tricky inasmuch as the company had to remain anonymous, which irked some in the community — it was known as “Project X.” But the incentives hearings were public.

It was all worth the effort, says Teague, who was present at the Paris Air Show when GE Aviation President and CEO David Joyce announced the investment, referring to the company’s “partnership with Asheville” and the industry-changing technology that would be built here.

“We had an announcement here locally, too,” says Teague. “To see the hundreds of workers at the GE plant here walk down the hill to where their new plant would be — this parade of people — was amazing and emotional. These were the people and families we had worked so hard for. So many people in the community had worked so hard in different ways to make this possible.”

The real story, says Teague is the ground-breaking technology that GE Aviation will produce in the Great Smoky Mountains. “But when you go through that public process, it shifts peoples’ perception to the incentives, and we had to work hard to keep the message on point and address concerns that nearly $18 million was a lot of money to be making available to the mysterious Project X. But at the end of the day, it was understood to be a great technology play, and people understood why it had to be that way for a time.”

A very significant technology play, GE Aviation’s Walsh reiterates. “This is the very first mass production facility for CMCs in jet propulsion. And it’s in North Carolina, so needless to say we’re putting our money on Asheville and trust the work force to execute on this.”

If the workers’ enthusiastic march to see the new plant site is any indication, it will in spades.

Asheville welcomes 27th Arts & Crafts Conference

ASHEVILLE — Fairview’s Bruce Johnson is nationally known as the spokesman for Minwax furniture refinishing products. Locally, he’s highly visible as the organizer of this weekend’s Arts and Crafts Conference that showcases Mission-style furniture and brings several thousand visitors to the Omni Grove Park Inn each February.

But who knew that this fine furniture man once committed a youthful act of family furniture disrespect?

Growing up in Illinois, the teenage Bruce covered the lid of his father’s Arts and Crafts drop front desk with decals of his favorite baseball teams, ruining the finish.

“Years later I retrieved it from my parents’ attic and carefully restored it,” Johnson said earlier this week. Seven moves and four decades later, “it sits right here in my office,” he said, “a daily reminder of how important it is to save and restore our family heirlooms for future generations.”

Thinking historically

As this year’s Arts and Crafts Conference gets underway Friday, Johnson is also thinking historically. “In 1988, I started a three-day conference, thinking it was a one year deal,” he said, “and lo and behold, here we are 27 years later.”

That first effort drew 300 people. Today the conference attracts about 1,000 people from out of state and 2,000 from North Carolina. Some “95 percent are within an hour’s drive from here,” Johnson said.

The growth parallels renewed interest in the Arts and Crafts movement, a design philosophy that first emerged in England in the mid-1890s and lasted until about 1940. It emphasized hand craftsmanship and clean lines in a rebellion against the overly ornate, poorly made mass-produced furnishings of the Victorians.

When the conference first began, the revival of interest in Arts and Crafts was new. “Now,” Johnson said, “it’s very mainstream. Every Realtor who can wants to label a house a bungalow or Arts and Crafts style.”

Johnson’s own Asheville Arts and Crafts revival began in 1988.

“I can nail it down to a specific incident,” he said. Living in Durham, he was already an Arts and Craft collector when he got a call from an Asheville shop offering an original Gustav Stickley sideboard. Stickley was the American furniture manufacturer who introduced the Arts and Crafts movement to this country in 1895.