Friday, April 30, 2010

Hinterland Cities Of Appalachia: Asheville

I follow a few Twitter feeds via Google Reader. Brian Kelsey's (Civic Analytics) is one of them:

Austin-Raleigh used to be the comparison made in #econdev circles. Increasingly I'm hearing Austin-Asheville.

Asheville falls well within my Appalachian Chic model. The cities ringing the fringes of Appalachia are doing remarkably well and represent significant frontier geographic opportunities. Asheville reminds me more of Bend or Boulder than Austin. A big draw is the beautiful mountain environment and the abundant recreational opportunities. Western Carolina has long attracted retirees seeking an alternative to Florida. Missing was a true economic spark.

What has changed?


Smith Mill Creek Notes said...

The retirement of boomers is a big factor. Many who come here to Asheville bring a steady income which supports amenities: arts, environmental interest, creativity in general.

In addition, there is a huge number of recent college graduates here. I'd have thought they'd head to SF, NYC or DC. Jobs stink; the creative laboratory exceeds anything I"ve experienced.

Also, the town is less stuck up: one afternoon last fall I chatted with my friend Vermin [not a typo] who told me about his new soap opera; and a minute later with the (now outgoing) Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce. The two of them might find it challenging to talk to each other; but I might not be the only person they know in common.

Also there is less age-ism here: yesterday night I stood around and chatted with some 22 year old friends of mine; this morning an 87 year old friend called up to ask when I want to get together for a visit [next Wednesday]. This is in marked contrast to the 30 year old SF hipster I was standing next to in line a few years back who was deeply mortified that someone 15 years older would attempt to broach a conversation.

There are also a disproportionate number of facilitators & org. development folks here, both retired & working nationally. This might account for the presence of The Blue Moon Group ;
Building Bridges &
Bridging Differences Bookclub

I was surprised and delighted that an exasperated, snarky suggestion of mine in early Jan 2007 that there be an energy dialog group eventually led to the creation of one five months later . (It helped that hundreds of us helped stop the building of a profitable, but unnecessary and polluting diesel electricity plant).

Those are some theories & observations-- I'd love to hear more.

I would strongly discourage anyone from moving here, however-- the kudzu problem is enormous & is a constant topic of conversation-- my friend Tom McCall never stops talking about it.

Jim Russell said...


I'm not surprised recent graduates head to Asheville without considering the local job market. Doing so is typical. Vicious kudzu be damned. What about the native recent graduates? Do they stick around?

Smith Mill Creek Notes said...

Grads from Warren Wilson and UNC Asheville sometimes stick around.

We had a different kind of unwanted invasion Saturday night (May Day). 30 young folks (18-25) rampaged downtown and did an alleged $18,000 in damage to windows, cars, public art. Presumably a "black bloc" type action.

Sad all around- to the small business, to the young folks who face felony charges for stupid destruction.