The 2018 Business Walk survey of Buncombe County businesses revealed that parking remains a concern for Asheville area businesses along with housing and permitting.
The Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce organized the 2018 Business Walk to gauge the community’s business environment. First conducted in 2013, the Business Walk asked businesses what would make their business more successful and what changes would improve the local business environment.
“Businesses are one of the most important parts of the community,” said Kit Cramer, president and CEO of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce. “The Business Walk allows us to talk to business owners and managers, find out their needs and concerns, and see how we might assist.”
Business is Growing
Sixty-three percent of businesses reported that they were growing with the highest percentages in East Buncombe and Biltmore Park. Accommodations were a notable exception with 47% of respondents noting a decline.
Improving the Business Environment
The top five responses to the question “What change would you make to improve the local business environment?” were: Housing (40% of respondents), Parking (36%), Availability of qualified personnel (26%), Easier and Expedited Permitting (21%) and Public Transportation (16%).
Availability of qualified personnel was a top change for companies in the 20-99 employees range as well as a top issue for manufacturing and construction. Parking was the top change noted by retail, arts and entertainment and personal services.
Most pressing infrastructure needs
Parking and sidewalks topped the most pressing infrastructure needs and were consistently ranked as top needs across company size and industry. There was variation across business location. Biltmore Village and East Asheville had stormwater/sewage drainage as top need. North Buncombe indicated better paved streets as the top need. And Charlotte Street had pedestrian crosswalks and sidewalks as the top needs.
Availability of workforce
Overall 53% of respondents said they were not struggling with workforce availability or staffing. However, workforce availability was an issue for companies of ten or more employees. Industry categories struggling with workforce were manufacturing, accommodations, contractors/construction, and food and beverage. Pay and housing were the largest obstacles to keeping and finding available workforce. By industry, the largest obstacle was training for manufacturing, contractors/construction and accommodations; while, food and beverage companies indicated pay and housing as the largest obstacles.
The Chamber and its strategic partners will use the answers to inform economic development and public policy efforts aimed at building community through business. For example, a previous Business Walk survey revealed that graffiti was a major concern for businesses. The Chamber worked with local and state officials to address the concern. Graffiti did not register in the 2018 survey.
The Business Walk was organized by the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Asheville Downtown Association, Biltmore Park Partners, Charlotte Street Business Association, Enka-Candler Business Association, Historic Biltmore Village, River Arts District, Black Mountain/Swannanoa Chamber of Commerce and West Asheville Business Association.