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Avery County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Sue Freeman delivers encouraging
news regarding Avery County’s economic growth over the past year at the Nov. 5 meeting of
Avery County Board of Commissioners.
Photo by Matthew Hundley

Originally published: 2012-11-08 12:00:24
Last modified: 2012-11-08 12:00:24

Chamber shares positive economic news with commissioners

Matthew Hundley / (

At the regularly scheduled meeting of Avery County Board of Commissioners on Monday, Nov. 5, the commissioners heard from representatives from Avery County Chamber of Commerce, Avery County Humane Society and Economic Development Director Bret Gardella. 

Avery Chamber shares encouraging economic news

ACCC Executive Director Sue Freeman and member of the Board of Directors Nancy Morrison spoke with the commissioners to deliver encouraging news regarding economic growth in Avery County. Freeman and Morrison described recent economic numbers that place Avery County at the top of the pack for economic growth in the western division of North Carolina; the highest economic growth in Avery County in more than 10 years. 

Freeman and Morrison noted that much of that growth stems from increased tourism and hospitality, an area that ACCC has focused on in recent years through a comprehensive cross-media outlet exposure approach. According to Freeman, by advertising Avery County’s assets in everything from brochures, to newspapers, to Facebook to billboards, ACCC has helped to encourage the recent surge in tourism dollars. Freeman and Morrison also gave credit to the Centennial Coalition for its work on the Centennial Celebration in 2011, and successful events like the annual Woolly Worm Festival. 

Avery Humane seeks state program 
Rachel Deal and Nelle Saint spoke on behalf of ACHS to thank the commissioners for their support and present some statistics regarding ACHS’s activity over the past year. According to Saint, in 2012, ACHS has taken in more than 750 animals and found new homes for more than 500, and returned 45 to their original owners. The scale of adoptions was possible thanks to the new facility, which Deal thanked the commissioners for their assistance in establishing.
“We would not have it if it were not for you, commissioners,” said Deal. 

Even with the new facility, the society is finding that they have more animals coming in than they can house. 

“The problem we have is that we do not have unlimited space,” said Saint. To avoid overcrowding, ACHS has established a wait list for anyone looking to leave a dog or cat with the shelter. 

Deal concluded the presentation by asking the commissioners to allow Avery County to serve as the lead agency for a state program that could provide $4,000 per quarter to support the shelter’s effort. Because the county would serve only as a conduit for incoming money, rather than expending county funds, the commissioners agreed by unanimous consensus. 

Economic development update

Gardella addressed the board to discuss the ongoing efforts to expand high-speed Internet access in Avery County. The current step, which has met delays due to constraints in Mitchell County, will provide high speed wireless access for certain areas in the southern part of the county, where internet access is scare or weak. 

At Gardella’s request, the commissioners also discussed the need for a replacement roof on the former Banner Elk Elementary, which will house the A.C. P.R.I.D.E. business incubator next year, according to Gardella. While commissioners Glenn Johnson and Phyllis Forbes were initially in favor of repairing the roof, commissioners Scott Heath and Martha Hicks opposed the idea for the time being, arguing that such an expenditure (an estimated $55,000) should be part of the budgeting process for the coming fiscal year.

“We would be going against what we already said,” said Hicks.

Heath suggested that the roof be patched as needed until the issue could be addressed in the budget process. Forbes and Johnson replied that such a solution would require using taxpayer money twice, once for temporary repairs and again for the full repairs. Johnson pointed out that the replacement of the roof could not be completed until the weather became warmer, which prompted chairman Kenny Poteat to propose a compromise in which the board readdress the problem when the weather would allow it to be addressed promptly, giving Gardella more time to explore repair options and giving the commissioners more time to assess the traffic and need for repair in the facility. Renovation complications
Plans to renovate Avery County Courthouse may face delays as additional, possible renovations have become evident in the process of preparing the courthouse’s newer courtroom to serve as the main courtroom while the larger, older courtroom is renovated. It remains to be seen how many of the renovations will be necessary and how much they may cost. 

Johnson noted that the courtroom, only five years old, was approved by all the necessary agencies and questioned whether some of the hypothetical changes were really needed. 

County Manager Robert Wiseman said that he would present the commissioners with details regarding the courtroom at a future meeting.