Skip to Main Content

Community Highlights

North Carolina: Highlights From Asheville

Jack Cecil (far right) and Jeanne Milliken Bonds (second on the left) with panel participants.

Amplified Western North Carolina

On November 29, more than 200 people gathered at the Asheville Buncombe Tech Mission Health Conference Center for a one day program linking employers, educators, workforce boards, legislators and local government leaders to answer the question: How can western North Carolina, as a region, grow the talent needed by local employers, while simultaneously improving region-wide economic mobility for the people of the region?

The Amplified Western North Carolina program was a partnership presented by the Mountain Area Workforce Development Board (WDB) and the Richmond Fed’s Community Development department. WDB is a partnership of private business executives and the leading workforce development organizations in Buncombe, Henderson, Madison and Transylvania counties of western North Carolina. As one of 23 workforce boards in North Carolina, WDB’s mission is to provide policy, planning, oversight and funding for local workforce development programs and address workforce issues as they emerge within the region.

In North Carolina, workforce boards are led by representatives from private sector businesses, higher education institutions, public schools, chambers of commerce, vocational rehabilitation centers, social services, community-based organizations and organized labor in a region.

“We started the program with the basics of identifying available jobs in the region,” said Jeanne Milliken Bonds, senior regional community development manager. “From there, we discussed workforce needs, economic mobility, pathways to jobs, growing talent and best practices.”

Matt Martin, Charlotte regional executive, shared an update on the Charlotte Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force as an example of how one community is addressing its mobility challenges. “The Charlotte Mecklenburg process is unique to the challenges and opportunities of that urban area,” said Martin. “But it could provide a roadmap for a larger, rural region to begin tackling the issue.”

Bonds and Jack Cecil, president of Biltmore Farms, moderated a number of sessions providing balanced perspectives between the needs of the employers and employees, and the bridging of service agencies on behalf of individuals and educators. Many employers in the region participated on panels and shared their workforce needs, talent development strategies and employment outlook. The businesses that participated: Biltmore Farms, Mission Health, ASI, Lassonde Pappas, Current by GE, Epsilon, Sylvan Sport, Anthroware, Cedar Mountain Café, Jacob Holme Industries, GE Aviation, Smartrac and Sierra Nevada Brewing. They represented a mix of IT, health care, manufacturing and hospitality companies across the region.

Over a networking lunch and post-summit sharing session, Cecil commented, “We have an amazing number of opportunities already engaged between community colleges, the universities and the region’s high schools that offer apprenticeships and internships to potential employees in the region.” But as Dr. Michael Walden of N.C. State University noted, "There is an increase in jobs requiring higher education in our region, so we need to focus on the pipeline of talent and how to mold it locally, from early childhood and up.”

This was a solid first conversation between employers, educators and policymakers,” said Bonds. “Next steps include focus sessions on talent pipelines and a regional focus on strategies to better understand and address economic mobility challenges.”

Review the Agenda

Watch the Video

phone Contact Us