Thursday, December 1, 2011

Public Policy Update: NCGA Special Session

The North Carolina General Assembly was back in Raleigh November 27-30 for a special session, and the Asheville Chamber was on the ground making sure the voice of Western North Carolina business was heard.

North Carolina legislatures arrived in Raleigh on Sunday and got the November special session underway at 8 pm on Sunday night. Throughout the session, which ended Tuesday (November 30), legislatures worked on key legislation for WNC.

The Asheville Chamber was particularly excited to see HB 796 receive approval from both the House and Senate. HB 796 changes North Carolina’s alcohol law and will allow breweries that brew more than 25,000 barrels of beer to self-distribute their product at the brewery location. This bill is pivotal for potential job creation in Buncombe and Henderson counties.

The Chamber would like to give a big thank you to Representative Tim Moffitt, Representative Chuck McGrady, Senator Tom Apodaca, and Senator Martin Nesbitt for their hard work on this legislation.

The Chamber was also pleased to see the Governor’s compact with the Eastern Band of Cherokee come through on Monday. The compact will modify NC's gambling law to allow live dealers in Cherokee and will produce needed jobs in WNC. The Chamber will be working hard to see that the General Assembly approves this job creating legislation as soon as possible.

The special session saw additional action with the Senate repealing the Racial Justice Act (SB 9) and the House passing legislation to cap the gas tax (HB 645). In the coming weeks be looking for the Governor’s veto to come on the repeal of the racial justice act and expect no action on the gas tax cap as the Senate decided not to take up the bill.

The General Assembly is scheduled to return to Raleigh February 16-18.

The Chamber will work hard to keep you updated on the happenings at the NCGA. If you have questions or concerns do not hesitate to contact Jeff Joyce at

Monday, November 21, 2011

Action Alert: Chamber's Voice Heard in DC

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Utility MACT rule is awaiting implementation and scheduled to be finalized by December 2011.

The EPA’s Utility MACT rule requires an untimely decrease in mercury emissions by power plants. The Asheville Chamber recently asked President Obama, his Cabinet and the EPA to first consider the implications on North Carolina business and jobs the Utility MACT rule will have if implemented.

Economists are predicting the MACT (scheduled to begin in December) will drive up prices for the power sector, manufacturers and other industries vital to NC. The Asheville Chamber encourages the President remain diligent in safeguarding our environment while also protecting businesses and working families.

US Senate takes Action:

Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Dan Coats (R-Ind.) introduced the bipartisan “Fair Compliance Act” to create reasonable timelines and benchmarks for utilities to comply with two major Environmental Protection Agency to protect jobs and keep utility rates stable. The legislation would extend the compliance deadline for the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) by three years and the deadline for the Utility MACT rule by two years – so that both would fall on January 1, 2017. Our federal delegation can help to delay this rule to give the appropriate time to assess the impact by supporting Senate Bill 1833.

How You Can Help

Contact the President and EPA

Due to the limited time we have to ensure our message is heard, we cannot afford to rely on the post office to deliver your letter. Additionally, White House security can often delay the delivery of letters to their recipients. So instead, please e-mail a .PDF copy of your letter to: E-mail Address:

The Honorable Valerie B. Jarrett
Senior Advisor to the President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20015

The Honorable Lisa Jackson
Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20460

Contact your Federal Delegation

Our federal delegation can help to delay the Utility MACT to give the appropriate time to assess the impact of the Utility MACT rule by supporting Senate Bill 1833. Call your elected officials today.

Senator Richard Burr: (202) 224-3154

Senator Kay Hagan: (202) 224-6342

Congressman Heath Shuler: (202) 225-6401

Congressman Patrick McHenry: (202) 225-2576

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

NC Biotechnology Grant Opportunities

The North Carolina Biotechnology Center helps make connections and provide support for our state's biotechnology industry. The North Carolina General Assembly funds the Biotechnology Center as a private, non-profit organization dedicated to biotechnology development.

Below is a listing of upcoming grant opportunities offered through partners of the Biotechnology Center.

If you have any special funding requests, or wish to be added to a distribution list for regular grant opportunities, please send a note to

Deadline: 11/17/11

Agency: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Program: Vaccine Innovation Award

Description: Gates Foundation recognizes that innovation in the delivery of vaccines can take many shapes. Rather than limit what innovation can mean, they welcome a diverse array of ideas. As long as the innovation has resulted in tangible health impact related to vaccine delivery, it is eligible for consideration.
Nominees will be assessed on three broad criteria:

  • Impact — the nominee should have achieved significant improvements in the prevention, control, or elimination of vaccine preventable disease.
  • Innovation and creativity — the nominee should have applied imaginative and pioneering approaches to overcome difficult challenges to immunizing children and achieving impact.
  • Scale — the nominee's innovation should be at scale or suitable to be implemented at scale within the nominee's country and around the world.

Award Amount: $250,000, featured on Gates Foundation website, and personally acknowledged by Gates Foundation leadership.

Eligibility: It is open to individuals from any disciplines who work on delivery of vaccines. Candidates from academic institutions, governments, health care facilities, research institutions, non-profit organizations and for-profit companies may be nominated.

Deadline: 12/15/11

Agency: National Science Foundation

Program: Innovation Corps Program (I-Corps)

Description: NSF seeks to develop and nurture a national innovation ecosystem that builds upon fundamental research to guide the output of scientific discoveries closer to the development of technologies, products and processes that benefit society. In order to jumpstart a national innovation ecosystem, NSF is establishing the NSF Innovation Corps (NSF I-Corps). The NSF I-Corps' purpose is to identify NSF-funded researchers who will receive additional support - in the form of mentoring and funding - to accelerate innovation that can attract subsequent third-party funding. The purpose of the NSF I-Corps grant is to give the project team access to resources to help determine the readiness to transition technology developed by previously-funded or currently-funded NSF projects. The outcome of the I-Corps projects will be threefold: 1) a clear go/no go decision regarding viability of products and services, 2) should the decision be to move the effort forward, a transition plan to do so, and 3) a technology demonstration for potential partners. WEBINAR: A webinar will be held on the first Tuesday of every month, beginning in August 2011 to answer questions about this program. Details will be posted on the I-Corps website as they become available.

Award Amount: Award size will not exceed $50,000; duration of each award is 6 months.

Eligibility: Universities and Colleges

Deadline: 2/1/12

Agency: National Science Foundation (NSF)

Program: Sustainable Energy Pathways (SEP)

Description: The Sustainable Energy Pathways solicitation calls for innovative, interdisciplinary basic research in science, engineering, and education by teams of researchers for developing systems approaches to sustainable energy pathways based on a comprehensive understanding of the scientific, technical, environmental, economic, and societal issues. The SEP solicitation considers scalable approaches for sustainable energy conversion to useful forms, as well as its storage, transmission, distribution, and use. The following Topic Areas illustrate the broad scope of sustainable energy interest areas of this solicitation: Energy Harvesting & Conversion from Renewable Resources; Sustainable Energy Storage Solutions; Critical Elements & Materials for Sustainable Energy; Nature-Inspired Processes for Sustainable Energy Solutions; Reducing Carbon Intensity from Energy Conversion & Use; Sustainable Energy Transmission & Distribution; Energy Efficiency & Management.

Award Amount: The award size is expected to be up to $500,000/year for up to four years per proposal.


Eligibility: Higher Education, Non-Profits

Deadline: 2/1/12

Agency: Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Program: Clinical Studies of Safety and Effectiveness of Orphan Projects Research Project Grant (R01) (OPD)

Description: The OPD was created to identify and promote the development of orphan products. Orphan products are drugs, biologics, medical devices, and medical foods that are indicated for a rare disease or condition (that is, one with prevalence, not incidence, of fewer than 200,000 people in the United States). Diagnostics and vaccines will qualify for orphan status only if the U.S. population to whom they will be administered is fewer than 200,000 people per year. The goal of FDA's OPD grant program is to support the clinical development of products for use in rare diseases or conditions where no current therapy exists or where the proposed product will be superior to the existing therapy. FDA provides grants for clinical studies on safety and/or effectiveness that will either result in, or substantially contribute to, market approval of these products.

Award Amount: Phase 1 studies are eligible for grants of up to $200,000 per year for up to 3 years. Phase 2 and 3 studies are eligible for grants of up to $400,000 per year for up to 4 years. Please note that the dollar limitation will apply to total costs (direct plus indirect). Budgets for each year of requested support may not exceed the $200,000 or $400,000 total cost limit, whichever is applicable.


Eligibility: Higher Education, Non-Profits, For-Profits, Small Business, Governments, etc

Deadline: Open through 09/30/12

Agency: U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)

Program: Navy and Marine Corps Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) Programs

Description: The goal of this program is to ensure the establishment of an educated and well-prepared STEM workforce. Funding is for organizations that improve the pipeline of students achieving STEM degrees. Target participants are students in primary and secondary schools, as well as colleges and universities.

Award Amount: $200,000 and would consider more


Eligibility: Colleges and Universities, Middle and High schools, Non-Profits, For-Profits

Deadline: Rolling

Agency: Bayer USA Foundation

Program: Bayer USA Foundation Grant Program

Description: The purpose of this program is to provide support for sustainable partnerships that improve communities in which Bayer employees live and work. The overarching goal of this program is to enhance the quality of life, provide unique and enriching opportunities that create diverse alliances, and prepare the leaders of the future. There are four areas of focus: Education and workforce development; Environment and sustainability; Health and human services; Arts and culture. An Eligibility Pre-Screening is required for all new submissions to ensure that the proposal or project falls within the Foundation's giving guidelines

Award Amount: Varies


Eligibility: Non-Profits

Monday, October 10, 2011

Leaders on Board: Training the Next Generation of Non-Profit Leaders

The Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce and Young Professionals of Asheville (YPA) are offering a new professional development opportunity to YPA members. Leaders on Board will provide a foundation for those interested in serving in a volunteer leadership capacity for a non-profit organization.

Individuals selected through an application process to participate in Leaders on Board will be required to complete an eight-hour training program taking place over the course of two evenings this November. The training sessions will cover a wide range of topics to prepare each participant to be an effective board member, including:

  • Legal Aspects of Non-Profit Management
  • Donation Solicitation
  • Reviewing Financial Statements
  • And More

Graduates of the training program will be connected with local non-profit organizations that have expressed interest in welcoming these leaders to their respective board of directors.

Individuals or non-profit organizations interested in participating in Leaders on Board should visit or contact for detailed information on qualifications, training sessions and an application. Individuals interested in being considered for the program must be a member of YPA and complete and submit an application by October 20, 2011. Accepted participants into the program will be contacted upon review of submitted applications.

Over twenty local non-profit organizations will be participating in the inaugural program, including:

Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce
Asheville Design Center
Asheville Downtown Association
Behavior Analysis Center of Asheville
Big Brothers Big Sisters
Children First/ Communities in Schools
Homeward Bound
Irene Wortham Center
Manna Foodbank
The Pisgah Center
World Camp

About Young Professionals of Asheville

Young Professionals of Asheville (YPA), a program of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, connects young adults in order to better lead and serve the greater Asheville community. YPA welcomes young professionals (21 – 40 years of age) living in Western North Carolina to join in activities and events focused on professional development, fostering connection and serving others.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

UnSung Asheville: A Tour of Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Fifty leaders in the Asheville business community joined the Asheville Chamber last week for a jam-packed two-day itinerary during a collaborative exchange event called "UnSung Asheville." The event enabled business leaders to "explore their own backyard," as Asheville Citizen-Times reporter Jason Sandford noted. At the same time, the event helped open the eyes of its participants to new ideas for furthering economic development for the Asheville area.

Read on for a synopsis of the event from Chamber President & CEO Kit Cramer.

View a slideshow of images from the event taken by Justin Bellamy of JB Media Group, LLC. All photos included in this post provided courtesy of JB Media Group, LLC.


Eight lanes of traffic take up a lot of space. I learned that in a pretty visceral way while riding in a trolley across the interstate to West Asheville. Hugh Munro, serving as our tour guide, told us where an expansion of I-240 in West Asheville would roughly begin (holding out the moment audibly)…and end. I now have a better understanding of the issue than I ever would have had by looking at any map.

And that, my friends, is the beauty of the IntraCity Visit. Fifty business and civic leaders participated and learned about aspects of the city by seeing, feeling and hearing about them. They not only got to know their own community better, they got to know one another better too.

They learned that FLS Energy has a plan for working with non-profits that doesn’t require upfront funding + on solar energy projects.

They learned that their wish for more river sports and activities was being realized through the creation of the Smokey Mountain Adventure Center.

They learned that bicycle tourism is especially profitable for the community, which led to thoughts of other types of tourist segmentation that could be targeted.

They learned that a lot of people might not be aware of the resources that exist within the community to support entrepreneurs.

And that the plans for workforce housing on Eagle Market Streets could be transformative.

And that the downtown tax base provides support for the entire community.

And that there is an extraordinary degree of collaboration occurring in the River Arts District that is having a distinct economic ripple effect.

And there is a whole cycle of agribusiness, from farming, marketing, food-product development and food composting that supports our “Foodtopia.”

And that the cultivation of the creative sector, whether through the performing arts, film or events like Hatch or TedX, helps make our economy stronger and more diverse.

They learned all these things and many others in the two days of the trip.

Perhaps participant Janice Brumit summed it up best when she told me, “I thought I knew everything about this community. I learned that I didn’t and there are lots of exciting things going on!”

-Kit Cramer
President & CEO of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce