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Asheville as a haven. What about the rest of NC?

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In Sunday's New York Times Real Estate section, there was an article about Asheville as a haven for creative people, gays and lesbians, blue-staters, etc. This is not an uncommon perception for the city which probably gets more coverage in the paper than just about any other NC city. The draw of Asheville goes beyond its natural beauty and picturesque setting but rather it is seen as a welcome respite in some of the most conservative territory in the country. Partially as a result of its national image, the city of Asheville has prospered and has a downtown that offers more life and diversity than most of NC's cities - even ones multiple times it size. Richard Florida, formerly a professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, has argued that in order for a city or metropolitan region to prosper in the "new" globalizing service-oriented economy, tolerance is a key factor in assessing an area's creativity index. His creativity index includes such sub-categories as the bohemian index and gay index and the corresponding tolerance index. Regardless of whether or not you (or I) agree with his premise, he does raise an interesting point in that conservatism with respect to "artsy" people, gay people, etc. affects the ability of a city/metro area to prosper economically because it keeps young, creative, tolerant professionals from moving there. In his rankings, of the three large NC metropolitan areas the Raleigh-Durham area fared well, Charlotte was mediocre and Greensboro-Winston-Salem-High Point's ranking was less than favorable. What are your thoughts? Do places like Greensboro and Winston-Salem hinder their ability to retain or attract young people by their perceived intolerance towards those who are less conservative?

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/28/realestate/28nati.html

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We have discussed this in other forums. Florida's so called creative class theory is garbage. He never offered any data, support, or studies to back up his claims. We have talked about his before in other parts of the forum, so I recommend searching on his name to see those discussions.

Charlotte did not become the largest city in the state, (more than twice as large as the next largest) by failing to attact talented people to the workforce.

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I agree with monsoon. Fichard Florida's "study" is rubbish. Even though NC as a whole is more on the "conservative" side, it is most likely one of the most accepting states out of the south.......maybe the most accepting after the state of Florida.

His studies on the 3 big metros is almost silly.

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We have discussed this in other forums.  Florida's so called creative class theory is garbage.  He never offered any data, support, or studies to back up his claims.  We have talked about his before in other parts of the forum, so I recommend searching on his name to see those discussions.

Charlotte did not become the largest city in the state, (more than twice as large as the next largest) by failing to attact talented people to the workforce.

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I am not a big fan of Florida either, but I do think that he makes some important points. I think there will be a trend toward cities with cultural wealth as the economy becomes more mobile. Asheville will be able to attract these folks much more easily than Charlotte.

Charlotte may be the biggest city in the state, but it's no where close to being the wealthiest.

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Charlotte may be the biggest city in the state, but it's no where close to being the wealthiest.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

By what measure do you use to make that determination?

In any case, Asheville's problem is that it does not have a significant source for jobs beyond tourism. And that means because of the elevation of the place, that it is deserted for 3-4 months of the year.

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By what measure do you use to make that determination? 

In any case, Asheville's problem is that it does not have a significant source for jobs beyond tourism.  And that means because of the elevation of the place, that it is deserted for 3-4 months of the year.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Not entirely true on both points.

Regarding the idea that Asheville is deserted for 3-4 months of the year, I would have to say not true. I grew up there, and I never noticed things getting emptier every winter. Asheville is a real city, not a resort town, and the vast majority of people - particularly in the city proper - are year-round residents. While there are some part-time residents, It's really not that much colder than the Piedmont. On any given day, at any given time, take the temperature in Charlotte, subract 5 or 6 degrees, and you have Asheville.

If you want to see somewhere that's really deserted during the off-season, head to the area around Highlands, Cashiers, and Franklin. That's the real land of the second home.

Regarding employment: Asheville is the center for health care for basically the entire NC mountains, plus part of eastern Tennesee as well. Thousands of people work at the hospital (Memorial Mission / St. Josephs) which continues to expand, in addition to the supporting specialists and private practices located around the area. The upshot is, if you're a health care professional, Asheville is not a bad place to be.

But on the whole, there is definitely a lack of white-collar opportunities, and a defecit of jobs in the manufacturing sector as well. Tourism is the local economy's base, and while there are plenty of jobs to be had in the tourism industry, demand is seasonal and good jobs are hard to come by.

I've heard it said - quite often, in fact, that people are often willing to put up with less pay, or a worse job, for the privilege of living in Asheville. For some people, it's just that appealing. But if it weren't for the lack of high-paying, upwardly mobile jobs, there would definitely be a lot more people living in Asheville than there are now.

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By what measure do you use to make that determination? 

In any case, Asheville's problem is that it does not have a significant source for jobs beyond tourism.  And that means because of the elevation of the place, that it is deserted for 3-4 months of the year.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Every measure (other than money).

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In his rankings, of the three large NC metropolitan areas the Raleigh-Durham area fared well, Charlotte was mediocre and Greensboro-Winston-Salem-High Point's ranking was less than favorable. What are your thoughts? Do places like Greensboro and Winston-Salem hinder their ability to retain or attract young people by their perceived intolerance towards those who are less conservative?

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/28/realestate/28nati.html

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^ Apologies, poor choice of words, meant in relative terms compared to the other metros mentioned, and should not have used the word "very". The point remains though (regarding the logic employed in the article). But to get off topic a little, I see Asheville's slow growth rate as ginormous positive, so hopefully you weren't interpreting that as an insult. If it did ever really pick up inertia you'd see a lot more of the irresponsible hill-top building, clearing of forests and awkward interstate construction.

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I for one think Ashville is truly a gem in NC crown. IMO it is a highly underrated city that kinda gets lost in all of the hyper-growth talk that seems to be going around. I am one of those growth junkies but I do appreciate the places in the state that stand out. Asheville needs more marketing not just to grow but to build its brand. A unique city in the south to me does not seem to fit in with the south. To all Asheville posters out there I am with you and will champion your city as just another reason why NC is such a great diverse and successful state.

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I think North Carolina is the most accepting state in the south, especially when it comes to the gay community. You have to remember Florida did ban gay adoptions, while N C has not. North Carolina is also one of the last states in the south not to have a constitutional amendment against gay marriage.

North Carolina's metro areas are becoming very tolerant as a whole from one end of the state to the other. Asheville with its large gay population, Carboro I believe elected a openly gay mayor a few years back, Wilmington/New Hanover has elected and reelected the states first openly gay state senator and will probably reelected her again next year.

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I think it would you would be hard pressed to find anyone who really thinks Asheville has a "very slow growth rate"... unless you start looking at the 60's and 70's and then you are kind of arguing something totally outside this conversation.

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Look at Buncombe County's population numbers and you'll likely find a very different story.

One reason is that Asheville doesn't have quite the same massive tract developments going up right outside city limits. Due to terrain, it's tough. Much of the developing land is out in unincorporated areas and in neighboring Henderson county. There are also 5 incorporated towns in Buncombe besides Asheville (and two more - Swannanoa and Leicester - are considering incorporation.)

I believe another reason that the City of Asheville has grown more slowly is that Asheville is hamstrung when it comes to annexation compared to everywhere else in the country. The reason? The Sullivan Acts, which mandates that Asheville (and Asheville alone, in the entire state of NC) cannot charge higher water/sewer rates to county residents, or force residential OR commercial properties to be annexed in order to extend city water and sewer to them.

The water/sewer connections are a primary reason that other cities in NC have been able to force their hand in the annexation of new subdivisions. Without that tool in their toolbox, Asheville is stuck having to make cash payments to developers of new subdivisions in order to get them to agree to be annexed.

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Seems a little irrelevant to do so since we are talking about the part of Asheville that is considered a "haven" for this topic. I note that in the rest of the county, it's the same kind of sprawl that's found anywhere else in NC.

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According to the NC State Demographer's office, Buncombe grew by 15,021 between 2000-2006, a rate of 7.3%. Most of that is outside of Asheville's city limits. As has been pointed out, Asheville hasn't annexed much of it's adjacent suburbia - areas west (outside of the city limits between 40 and NC 63) and south (Lake Julian and Arden/Skyland areas) would qualify, and there have been some past studies of those areas. A county-wide growth rate of 7.3% puts Buncombe slightly ahead of Guilford (6.7%) and slightly behind Forsyth (8.4%) in it's rate of increase. Comparatively, other urban NC counties of similar size are as follows: Durham (10.5%), Cumberland (1.2%), Gaston (3.6%), New Hanover (14.8%). As the county rates are higher than those for the city of Asheville, it's very obvious that the county is being subjected to some sprawlifying, and the city, for whatever reason, hasn't annexed much of it theoretically could. To the point that Asheville's rate of growth is slower than high-growth Piedmont cities (plus Wilmington and Greenville), the economy in Asheville could be a bit more diverse than it is, but that's stating the obvious I guess. Wilmington is evolving into an NC boom town; it has some similar attributes to Asheville - a heavy reliance upon tourism and a lot of natural scenery, plus a downtown that draws note - but (this is an uninformed, casual opinion) it seems to me that there's a more aggressive attitude (in Wilmington) towards broadening the economy and linking into the economic connections notable between the big 3 metros. This is just an offhand impression - I'd be interested in seeing someone from Asheville (or Wilmington) weigh in with a more informed assessment.

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To the point that Asheville's rate of growth is slower than high-growth Piedmont cities (plus Wilmington and Greenville), the economy in Asheville could be a bit more diverse than it is, but that's stating the obvious I guess. Wilmington is evolving into an NC boom town; it has some similar attributes to Asheville - a heavy reliance upon tourism and a lot of natural scenery, plus a downtown that draws note - but (this is an uninformed, casual opinion) it seems to me that there's a more aggressive attitude (in Wilmington) towards broadening the economy and linking into the economic connections notable between the big 3 metros. This is just an offhand impression - I'd be interested in seeing someone from Asheville (or Wilmington) weigh in with a more informed assessment.

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There is an attempt, called the HUB Project, that supposedly means to use our wealth of weather information and our superior internet connections installed for the use of the federal government, to bring in high-tech clean industry. It never seems to go anywhere, though. What we need is better leadership to make this a city for residents as well as tourists, and I know I've said that before but it's still true.

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According to the NC State Demographer's office, Buncombe grew by 15,021 between 2000-2006, a rate of 7.3%. Most of that is outside of Asheville's city limits. As has been pointed out, Asheville hasn't annexed much of it's adjacent suburbia - areas west (outside of the city limits between 40 and NC 63) and south (Lake Julian and Arden/Skyland areas) would qualify, and there have been some past studies of those areas. A county-wide growth rate of 7.3% puts Buncombe slightly ahead of Guilford (6.7%) and slightly behind Forsyth (8.4%) in it's rate of increase. Comparatively, other urban NC counties of similar size are as follows: Durham (10.5%), Cumberland (1.2%), Gaston (3.6%), New Hanover (14.8%). As the county rates are higher than those for the city of Asheville, it's very obvious that the county is being subjected to some sprawlifying, and the city, for whatever reason, hasn't annexed much of it theoretically could. To the point that Asheville's rate of growth is slower than high-growth Piedmont cities (plus Wilmington and Greenville), the economy in Asheville could be a bit more diverse than it is, but that's stating the obvious I guess. Wilmington is evolving into an NC boom town; it has some similar attributes to Asheville - a heavy reliance upon tourism and a lot of natural scenery, plus a downtown that draws note - but (this is an uninformed, casual opinion) it seems to me that there's a more aggressive attitude (in Wilmington) towards broadening the economy and linking into the economic connections notable between the big 3 metros. This is just an offhand impression - I'd be interested in seeing someone from Asheville (or Wilmington) weigh in with a more informed assessment.

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...conservatism with respect to "artsy" people, gay people, etc. affects the ability of a city/metro area to prosper economically because it keeps young, creative, tolerant professionals from moving there. In his rankings, of the three large NC metropolitan areas the Raleigh-Durham area fared well, Charlotte was mediocre and Greensboro-Winston-Salem-High Point's ranking was less than favorable. What are your thoughts? Do places like Greensboro and Winston-Salem hinder their ability to retain or attract young people by their perceived intolerance towards those who are less conservative

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I don't believe I have ever met a heterosexual person in my life who even remotely considered a city's acceptance of gays when pondering a move for a new job. Some people live in a complete parallel universe vastly different from the way the bulk of the real world works. Occasionally you will hear some higher up executive doing the required PC CYA but the location of jobs and thus the people who follow them is 98% based on money and the calculations of how much money is to be made rarely depend on the opinion of the gay community.

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And slightly off topic, but Florida's Creative Class BS (which has him laughing all the way to the bank as cities nationwide try to get 'creative') is just that: BS. As an FYI, when Florida speaks of "gay people", he is not including lesbians. They do not find their way into his data. Not sure why lesbians can't be creative, but in Florida's world, they're not.

So in terms of Asheville, the Florida argument needs to be re-examined. AVL is a VERY lesbian-centric place.

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I don't believe I have ever met a heterosexual person in my life who even remotely considered a city's acceptance of gays when pondering a move for a new job. Some people live in a complete parallel universe vastly different from the way the bulk of the real world works. Occasionally you will hear some higher up executive doing the required PC CYA but the location of jobs and thus the people who follow them is 98% based on money and the calculations of how much money is to be made rarely depend on the opinion of the gay community.

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