WEST JEFFERSON — County officials put on their hard hats and wielded their shovels on Friday, Sept. 16 as they broke ground on the new Ashe Industrial Park.
The park, located on Ray Taylor Road in West Jefferson, just across from GE Aviation, is set to provide companies maximum flexibility with lots ranging in size from two acres to 41 acres.
The Industrial Park supports Ashe County Economic Development’s mission of fostering an environment that attracts new businesses, supports the expansion of existing businesses and promotes entrepreneurship. Forever mindful of being a good steward of taxpayer monies, the county applied for numerous grants and received awards totaling $1.2 million in grant funding which will pay for 86% of the park’s development costs.
According to Cathy Barr, Director of Economic Development, there has already been one inquiry for space at the site. However, until the park has been completely graded and paved, businesses will have to wait to make their move in. The park is set to be complete near the end of 2022, according to Barr.
“This is an extremely memorable day,” said Chair of the Ashe County Board of Commissioners, Todd McNeill. “It’s been a long two years in the making and it’s fun to actually see the work going on here. For the first time in many years, Ashe County has a new asset to market to business and industry, whether it is new business industry coming in or potential expansion of existing partners that we have in town. This is, arguably, the most important economic development project we’ve had in a long time.”
The county’s goal for the Industrial Park is to attract businesses, with the highest possibility of growth and expansion in Ashe County that will offer good-paying jobs.
Ashe partnered with Creative EDC, an economic development consulting firm, to assess the county and the surrounding regions’ strengths and weaknesses and compare these with the needs of growing and expanding companies. Analysis showed that small companies in advanced manufacturing, outdoor sports and recreation equipment and creative industries match the strengths and assets of Ashe County.
Advanced manufacturing provides an opportunity to grow an already strong manufacturing base that already exists in Ashe. It includes machinery, electrical equipment, vehicle components and transportation equipment, among other sectors.
Outdoor sports and recreation equipment capitalizes on the heart and beauty of Ashe County. The region is attractive to companies that supply bikers, hikers, kayakers, campers and general nature enthusiasts who are drawn to Ashe County’s beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.
The creative industries category builds upon the artistic community and assets of the county. These businesses may include companies that create intricate wood furniture, grow Christmas trees or venture into developing Agtech hardware or software.
Partners that have contributed to the park’s development include Blue Ridge Energy, SkyLine SkyBest, Golden Leaf, NC Department of Commerce, the Appalachian Regional Commission, USDA, High Country Council of Government, WithersRavenel, and Vannoy Construction.
“I’d like to thank everybody that has made this possible,” said Barr. “It’s been a huge team effort and I look forward to us doing this.”
Those who dug ground on Friday were Commissioners Todd McNeill, William Sands, Jerry Powers and Chuck Olive, Country Manager Adam Stumb, Cathy Barr and West Jefferson Mayor Tom Hartman.
“This is a proud moment for the county,” said Stumb. “We’re really excited and I look forward to the next phase of the project.”
Marketing the Industrial Park will include a new economic development website, digital marketing and collateral materials. As the marketing evolves, the county will invest in a more direct outreach like the state’s outdoor recreation target marketing program.
To learn more or to reserve a spot in the park, contact Barr at (336) 846-5535 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.