The Western North Carolina New Economy Coalition (WNC NEC) has recently released an online resource (wncnec.org) which provides public access to data from their Local Economy Gap Analysis. This report, also known as the Economic Leakage Study of the Asheville MSA, examines potential business prospects in the four counties of the Asheville MSA (Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson, and Madison) as well as the capacity and challenges of local communities of color to take advantage of the study for business creation and expansion. The data reveals opportunities in our region for the creation of 2,000 new businesses that would employ about 10,000 people. Examples of industries experiencing these gaps are transportation, automotive repair, & construction. To learn more about how to implement this data you can join the WNC NEC for an interactive workshop on July 26, from 3pm-5pm.
The Local Economic Gap Analysis compares business activity and services in the Asheville area with similar regions across the country in order to identify opportunities for economic development. The “gaps” refer to areas of the MSA economy that depend upon the importation of goods and services instead of producing them locally. These gaps result in “leakages” of resources to outside businesses which drain capital and salaries from the local economy. The sectors of our economy that are underperforming (i.e. have lower than average business activity compared to other similar metropolitan areas) offer scope for the creation of new local businesses or the expansion of existing ones. The data was commissioned by the ED3 Group, a Durham-based consulting firm, to conduct the research with Strategic Partnership funding from the City of Asheville.
For the WNC NEC, a strong diverse local economy implies an equitable and inclusive business environment. Hence, the coalition also designed the Local Economic Gap Analysis to analyze the barriers people of color face to take advantage of these business opportunities. A list of 387 minority businesses in the Asheville MSA was compiled and over 30 business owners, business development organizations, supplier diversity professionals, and community stakeholders were interviewed. This information informed a deeper understanding of the strengths and weaknesses in the entrepreneurial ecosystem in which these minority businesses operate. One challenge that these businesses face is restricted access to information and resources. Over the last few months, WNC NEC members have conducted a series of workshops to assist these communities in utilizing the Local Economic Gap Analysis data in their business decisions.
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The WNC NEC is a collective of community-based organizations working to develop effective pathways to local economic development which will move us towards a shared, inclusive economy. It supports the development of more socially-involved and democratically-based business models, such as social enterprises, B-Corps, ESOPs, living wage businesses, and cooperatives. The WNC NEC collaborating organizations include the Center for Local Economies, Eagle Market Streets Development Corporation, Green Opportunities, Just Economics, Mountain BizWorks, Neighborhood Economics, and Self-Help Credit Union.