REGIONALREPORT WesternWestern Carolina targets health partnerships
Western Carolina University will open its Health and Human Sciences Building this fall, making it the first structure in the school’s Millennial Initiative,
which hopes to stimulate a public/private economic development similar to that of N.C. State University’s Centennial Campus. The initiative was announced
in 2005, when the school bought 344 acres adjacent to the main Cullowhee campus. Construction started in 2009 and cost the state $46 million.
Though private development near the building was stalled by the recession, school officials say interest has returned.
Western Carolina has designated 35 acres for private or public developments around the building, but that could be expanded to 60 acres. The school is
hoping to attract development that can be tied to academia and the health-care industry, such as clinics and doctors’ offices.
The building, which is 160,000 square feet, will feature a clinic, seminar rooms, an auditorium, faculty offices, 21 labs and 11 classrooms, as well as a rooftop
garden and a multistory atrium. Western Carolina is also discussing leasing interior space to a health-related business.
New investment in Rutherford County in 2011, most in the state, says the N.C. Department of Commerce. Most came from Menlo Park, Calif.-based Facebook Inc.’s data center, near Forest City.
In June, Gov. Beverly Perdue signed into law a 30-year compact between the state and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, sanctioning the use of live
table games such as poker, blackjack and roulette at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino. The governor’s office estimated that the games will add 400 jobs in western
North Carolina, while a small portion of the new revenue — 4% for the first five years and increasing a percentage point every five years until reaching 8%
over the last decade — will go to the state for education. The agreement gives the tribe exclusive rights to live table games west of Interstate 26. They should
be available for play at Harrah’s by mid-August.
ASHEVILLE — Plasticard Locktech International will expand its plant here, investing $4.4 million and adding 42 workers to about 200 it has now. The company is the world’s largest producer of hotel keycards, and it also makes gift cards, magnets and door hangers.
HENDERSONVILLE — Atlanta-based Printpack will close its plant here by the second half of 2013 as it expands its operations in Rhinelander, Wis. The company, which makes specialty packaging, will work to place some of its 115 local workers at other Printpack locations, a company spokeswoman says.
ASHEVILLE — Nonprofit lender and business consultant Mountain BizWorks closed its Hendersonville and Sylva offices but will still offer loans and classes in those communities and retain its 13 full-time and 20 part-time workers. The change will allow the nonprofit, which lends to startups and growing businesses in 12 western counties, to channel more money into loans and classes (Regional Report, April).
OLD FORT — Furniture maker SBFI North America will open a plant here, creating 25 jobs and investing $1.4 million within three years. The Asheville-based company makes specialty trading desks and control-room furniture for clients such as banks and employs about 90 workers in the state. Average annual salary will be $31,080, higher than McDowell County’s average of $29,692.