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JEFFERSON — The Ashe County Board of Commissioners met in regular session on May 18 at 9 a.m. at Ashe County Courthouse to discuss the economic impact of the new Ashe Industrial Park and discuss COVID-19 updates.

The meeting was not open to the public, but was available in livestream on the Ashe County Government website.

This meeting and all previous meetings can be assessed at by clicking the “Commissioners” tab on the website and then clicking the tab labeled “Meeting Agendas, Minutes and Videos” from the drop-down menu.

There were no public comments at this meeting.

Crystal Morphis, president of Creative Economic Development Consulting provided the economic analysis of the proposed Ashe Industrial Park.

Morphis said the proposed business park is almost 42 acres with about 39 acres in the site plan.

She and her team modeled what would happen if a manufacturer built a building on each one of the five lots and estimated the building range to be about about 10,000 square feet of building per acre.

“We know we could get more building on there, but sometimes there are limitations in terms of topography and want to have plenty of room for parking and then expansion of those buildings as well,” Morphis said.

They also identified some potential sectors of manufacturers including another ambulance manufacturer, electrical equipment, surgical devices or advanced textiles.

“There’s probably going to be a lot of medical-related manufacturing moved back to the U.S over the next year or two,” Morphis said.

According to Morphis, there is a one-time benefit of constructing the facilities. The employment directly involved in construction would be almost 300 employees, which would be a value of about $36-37 million, in the value of those buildings.

Morphis said the one-time impact and total economic value to Ashe County if the proposed buildings were built would be about $49 million.

Once the facility is built and people are working in those facilities, the jobs will be on-going and paychecks will last. According to Morphis, there is an estimated direct employment of about 322 jobs in the five buildings.

“Again, those paychecks will ripple through the economy and some portion of that money will stay in Ashe County,” Morphis said.

According to Morphis, taking into consideration the people who work in the park and the ripple effect, there is an estimated 575 jobs which can be a result of the five lots being developed.

Emergency Management Coordinator Patty Gambill provided an update on COVID-19.

Gambill said one of the first four positive cases in Ashe County is experiencing some ongoing issues. There have been no hospitalizations or deaths in any Ashe County residents as a result of the virus.

There has only been one case in the county that has been identified as community spread, which means the public health has been unable to identify where the individual contracted the virus.

Gambill said the health department is looking at setting up some mobile testing sites for the county. The test sites will not be testing asymptomatic people, unless they are close contacts of known positive cases or are frontline workers.

During the commissioner comments section Paula Perry congratulated the Class of 2020.

“I’d just like to say congratulations to all the seniors this year, sorry you didn’t have your graduation the way you had planned and thought you would when you started kindergarten and couldn’t wait to graduate,” Perry said. “We’re just thankful that you made it and that you can look forward to your future.”

Commissioner William Sands said everyone has a lot to be thankful for during this time.

“We’re going to have to have a change of lifestyle, from the way we lived two or three months ago, I don’t know how long this will go on but I’m not encouraged that it will be in a short period of time,” Sands said. “We need to very much keep the distance we’re talking about, do the precautions that have been stated to us, also don’t go out anymore than you have to.”

Commissioner Larry Dix spoke about the “Be the Light” event at Ashe County High School.

“I was really pleased to see a lot of cars come through, I stood out there with a sign honoring some of the senior players,” Dix said. “At least there was some recognition for them. We just had to be creative this year.”

Vice-chairman Larry Rhodes also congratulated the seniors and said everything they have learned thus far is appreciated.

“Again, we hope you have a blessed future, we will keep you in our minds and we hope that things in your future can be for you to either remain or return to Ashe County,” Rhodes said.

Chairman Todd McNeill congratulated both high school and college graduates.

“It’s not the way you imagined it but it doesn’t take away from the hard work you’ve put in over the years,” McNeill said.

He also said the people of Ashe County are fortunate to live in the area, especially in times like this.

He shared something his 6-year old daughter said to him.

“I’m glad to live where we do, you know, these people that are having to quarantine in these big towns she said, they don’t even have any grass to play in,” McNeill said of his daughter’s recollection.

Although, people living in larger cities may have grass, McNeill said it was the point behind the comment that was worth a mention.

“Even at her young age, she understands how lucky we are,” McNeill said.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the BOC will be June 1.

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