Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Celebrate Asheville's Food Scene at The Culinary AffAIR

Tickets are now on sale for The Culinary AffAIR - Asheville's premier food event coming up February 3, 2011 at The Venue.

For a sneak peek, check out this video slideshow produced by Stone Digital Media.

The Culinary Affair from Stone Digital Media on Vimeo.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Arvato Digital Services Expands to Create Over 400 New Jobs in Weaverville

Contact: Ben Teague, Executive Director
Economic Development Coalition for Asheville - Buncombe County (828) 258-6130–

Arvato Digital Services Expands to Create Over 400 New Jobs in Weaverville

Asheville, NC - Arvato Digital Services, in Weaverville, plans to invest $1.8 million in capital improvements to assist in the creation of 408 net new jobs over the next three years as it positions itself for future business opportunities. The firm, in conjunction with the Economic Development Coalition for Asheville-Buncombe County (EDC), announced that the Weaverville plant expansion will incorporate new customer care operations, one of several such operations throughout the U.S.

Arvato Digital Services is a replicator and distributor for intellectual property such as music, movies, software, and video games in CD and DVD formats. Its extensive client list includes leading firms in entertainment, music, and software industries. The organization has grown to dominate market share in its industry through its expertise and innovation of services. In recent years, Arvato and the former Sonopress merged to combine end-to end customer service operations, further diversifying its business.

A division of Arvato AG, a global media and communication firm headquartered in Gutersloh, Germany, Arvato Digital Services serves 18 countries on five continents. The Weaverville plant, currently specializing in media replication and fulfillment, was established in 1984, and is among seven Arvato locations in the U.S. Arvato management’s decision to expand its growing call center operations will strengthen the future of Arvato in Western North Carolina.

“While it is always difficult to predict the evolving demands of businesses and consumers, our company has succeeded by recognizing trends and adapting to fit the times,” said Bob Fletcher, EVP North American Customer Service at Arvato Digital Services. “There is no better example of this willingness to innovate than our new customer care operation in Weaverville. We are grateful to our friends, neighbors, and partners in the County for their continued support of Arvato Digital Services and we look forward to many more years of success.”

Buncombe County Commission Chairman David Gantt commented “We are grateful to Arvato management for their dedication to Buncombe County. The company has served for more than 25 years as an economic anchor in the northern part of our county. We wish them much success as the company begins this new chapter.”

“Arvato’s continued investment in our community is a win for Buncombe County,” stated EDC Chairman K. Ray Bailey. “The EDC applauds the forethought of the local management team for pursuing additional avenues to serve their customer base. We expect this investment will open doors to employment for hundreds of Buncombe County residents.”

For more information on this expansion, visit Arvato’s website at Applications for employment will be collected online at , and also at the Homecoming Job Fair at Biltmore Square Mall on December 28.

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 Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Advantage Asheville Campaign.

The Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce is a 2,000+ member organization representing 86,000 employees. Chamber members collaborate with community organizations and coalitions to support the community and each other with the mission of increasing the region’s livability by advancing its economic vitality. The Asheville Chamber works diligently to ensure that Asheville continues to prosper while also protecting the natural beauty of the area. In 2006, the Chamber moved to a new location and is now home to the 4,000 square foot Visitor Center which welcomes 200,000 visitors per year.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Public Policy Update: EPA and Collective Bargaining

EPA Delays Decision on 8 Hour Ozone Standard

In January of 2010 the EPA announced they would set a stricter 8 Hour Ozone Standard. The Chamber became involved with Land of Sky Regional Council and worked to create a policy position that protected the people and businesses of Western North Carolina. The Chamber desired the stricter regulation to come from Congress, which is accountable to voting constituents instead of from the EPA. The Chamber has been monitoring the situation and waiting for the EPA to announce the new standard. Yesterday the EPA announced that it will once again delay the decision until July of 2011. You can see the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce’s statement below and the EPA’s press release.

Asheville Chamber Position Statement

The Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce recognizes that climate change is an important issue which must be addressed by Congress. We strongly support efforts by Congress to craft comprehensive environmental legislation which reduces greenhouse gas emissions and protects our economic competitiveness and quality of life. The Chamber appreciates the role the Environmental Protection Agency plays in protecting the American people, but we do not support the recent efforts of the EPA to move towards regulating greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. We urge Congress to develop this important environmental protection legislation within the next two years to continue the system of checks and balances necessary for issues that impact jobs, our economy, and environment. The Chamber recognizes that members of Congress are held accountable to constituents for decisions on cost and impacts and federal agencies do not have the same accountability for economic consequences.

EPA Statement

Under Administrator Jackson's leadership, in January the Environmental Protection Agency proposed stricter standards for smog - standards that would help prevent up to 12,000 premature deaths, 58,000 cases of aggravated asthma and save up to $100 billion dollars in health costs.
The proposed standard would replace an existing standard set during the previous Administration, which many - including the Agency's independent team of expert scientists known as Clean Air Science Advisory Committee (CASAC) - believed did not go far enough to protect public health.
Administrator Jackson proposed that EPA select a standard in the range that CASAC indicated would be protective of Americans' health. As part of EPA's extensive review of the science, Administrator Jackson will ask CASAC for further interpretation of the epidemiological and clinical studies they used to make their recommendation. To ensure EPA's decision is grounded in the best science, EPA will review the input CASAC provides before the new standard is selected. Given this ongoing scientific review, a final standard - which will be in the range recommended by the CASAC - will be set by the end of July, 2011.
In addition to this standard, EPA is moving forward with a number of national rules that will significantly reduce pollution and improve public health for all Americans. These include rules designed to reduce harmful emissions from cars, power plants and other industrial facilities that contribute to ozone formation. Taking additional time to complete the scientific review of the ozone standard will not delay the public health benefits of these rules.

Collective Bargaining Update

The revised collective bargaining mandate bill (S. 3911) that would have forced all states and local government to allow certain government employees to collectively bargain was REJECTED by the U.S. Senate yesterday (12/8). The cloture vote, allowing the bill to move forward for a full Senate floor vote FAILED by a vote of 55-43 (60 votes were needed) with U.S. Senator Kay Hagan (D) voting NO and U.S. Senator Richard Burr (R) voting NO.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Public Policy Update: Governmental Affairs Task Force Discusses Tax Reform and Education

The Governmental Affairs Task Force of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce convened on November 30, 2010 to discuss tax reform in North Carolina and priorities for education legislation.

Brian Balfour, a budget and tax policy analyst with the Civitas Institute in Raleigh made a presentation to the Task Force on the status of tax reform in North Carolina. In 2009 the North Carolina Senate created the 21st Century Tax Rate Reduction and Modernization Plan to examine options for reform. Tax reform has long been discussed for North Carolina due to declining revenues, which is largely due to the current tax structure relying heavily on the personal income tax.

North Carolina currently has extremely high tax rates, which makes it hard for the state to be competitive in attracting business. The Tax Foundation’s 2011 State Business Tax Climate Rankings have North Carolina ranked 41 out of 50 (best is 1, worst is 50). The 21st Century Tax Reduction and Modernization Plan is complex but essentially calls for a lowering of the tax rate by expanding the base of taxable services.

It is important to note that the leadership of the North Carolina General Assembly has said that tax reform will not be dealt with in the 2011 session. Instead the General Assembly will focus on balancing the state budget. The Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce will continue to monitor and watch this issue as it unfolds.

Dr. Hank Dunn, President of A-B Tech; Allen Johnson, Superintendent of Asheville City Schools; and Dr. Tony Baldwin, Superintendent of Buncombe County Schools also joined the Task Force to present their legislative priorities to the Chamber. All three recognize the state budget deficit will have tremendous impacts on education in the Asheville area. They asked business leaders to recognize the long term impact a year of education funding cuts can have on business and providing the quality workforce they need.

On the cutting block is Dual Enrollment, which is a partnership program with high schools and community colleges that allows high school students to enroll in college level classes. The educators would love to see this program funded as it provides access to college for many students who would never see a college classroom. This program also accelerates the entrance of a highly skilled workforce into area industries since students can complete their college education in a shorter time period. The educators also recognized they will face staffing cuts and said they are prepared to deal with the situation this will create.

The Chamber will continue to advocate for the school systems in Western North Carolina, which train the workforce our businesses require.

The next Governmental Affairs Task Force meeting will be on Tuesday, January 4, 2010 from noon until 1:30 pm at the Chamber of Commerce. If you are a member of the Chamber and have any interest in this group please contact Jeff Joyce at