Jobs hang in the balance in Asheville
Tim Lampkin is proud to promote a great place to hang out — or hang a hammock. “It’s cool
to see friends from all over the country bragging about their ENOs on social media,” says the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce’s director of retention and expansion services. ENOs are Eagles Nest Outfitters Inc.’s lightweight, packable hammocks. Though the Asheville-based company won’t release sales, a spokeswoman for Valle Crucis-based Mast General Stores Inc. reports that ENOs are flying off the shelves of its eight stores. “Right now, through eight months of the fiscal year, we’re already at last year’s number,” Sheri Moretz says. Like Lampkin says, that’s great. But he and Ben Teague, executive director of Asheville-Buncombe County Economic Development Coalition, seek more support — in the form of jobs — than Eagles Nest Outfitters now offers.
Brothers Peter and Paul Pinholster started the company in 1999 in Florida and moved it to Virginia. In 2003, they relocated to Candler — eventually settling in a one-room storage center on the outskirts of Asheville — after a sales rep for another outdoor-recreation business raved about the region. As it prospered, the company traded up, eventually moving into an 18,000- square-foot warehouse and office near downtown Asheville. Though annual revenue is “considerably more” than $1 million, spokeswoman Natalie DeRatt says, the business employs only 20 people, up from the seven or eight on its payroll in the mid-2000s. That’s because factories in Bali and China manufacture its hammocks. “Made in China is not so much our interest,” Teague says.
The North Carolina mountains have become a magnet for outdoor-rec companies. But while Asheville-based French Broad Boatworks’ $14,000 guideboat was a runner-up in Garden & Gun magazine’s fourth annual Made in the South awards, many don’t manufacture their products here and, therefore, don’t employ many people. In 2011, the chamber launched Asheville 5x5, a plan that aims to create 5,000 jobs within five years in five specific industries. One is advanced manufacturing, and a sector within that is outdoor products. As an example of what the chamber wants, Teague points to Legacy Paddlesports LLC, which recently moved from Greensboro to a $4.5 million, 130,000-square-foot factory in Fletcher, where it employs more than 100 (“Back Paddle,” July 2013).
BriefsASHEVILLE — President and CEO Shaw Canale resigned from Mountain BizWorks two weeks before the company’s announcement that it will restructure, reducing its staff by about half to seven employees. The nonprofit will narrow its focus to lending and consulting for small businesses and will eliminate its popular business-planning classes, phasing them out by midyear.
MORGANTON — Jim Burnett will retire as president of Western Piedmont Community College July 31. An alumnus of the school, he joined its staff as coordinator of veterans affairs in 1973 and has been president since 2006.
ASHEVILLE — HomeTrust Bancshares Inc., holding company of HomeTrust Bank, named Dana L. Stonestreet CEO and chairman. He succeeds F. Edward Broadwell Jr., who retired. Stonestreet was co-chief executive officer and has been a member of the board since 2007.
ASHEVILLE — McKibbon Hotel Group and Tower Associates formed MHG-Tower LLC,which bought the downtown BB&T Building for an undisclosed amount. Its renovation plans include an upscale hotel.