Gearing up for the state legislative session that begins May 16, the Chamber set the table for more than 160 local business leaders and five legislators to discuss crucial public policies at the 2018 Legislative Luncheon, which was held in the Lioncrest Conference Room at the Biltmore Estate.
“It’s difficult for our business leaders to find the time to drive four hours to Raleigh,” said Corey Atkins, the Asheville Chamber’s VP of Public Policy. “So we bring Raleigh to them.”
The annual event featured a formal presentation of the Chamber’s 2018 Legislative Priorities, created by the Advocacy and Policy Committee, a collective of hard-working business and community leaders who volunteer time and expertise to identify priority business issues.
“This agenda serves as the platform for our advocacy work throughout the year as we foster a business-friendly environment in Asheville and Buncombe County and strive to move the community forward,” said Terri King, the committee chair and keynote speaker.
For the first time in Chamber history, environmental stewardship is included on the agenda, which also advocates for business incentives and development, healthcare services and resources, education/workforce training, and transportation and infrastructure development.
“The Chamber’s legislative agenda really does a great job of striking that independent line among organizations in NC and focusing on effectively growing the entire region,” said Rep. Brian Turner, D-Buncombe.
Other legislators in attendance included Sen. Chuck Edwards, R-District 48; Sen. Terry Van Duyn, D-District 49; Rep. John Ager, D-District 115; and Sen. Jim Davis, R-District 50.
“North Carolina is open for business, and we’re doing extremely well. We have a AAA-bond rating, and have recently been ranked as the best business state in the country by Forbes. Buncombe County’s unemployment rate is 3.5%, the lowest in the state,” said Edwards, who is optimistic about the future of the state and region.
The legislators celebrated the region’s successes, and discussed the issues most at stake for the short session in Raleigh, including: distribution of tax revenue, city council districts, healthcare resources, internet access, and educational transparency, among others.
“Prosperity doesn’t just move from one place to another—it gets connected. I am so grateful to the Chamber and everyone else involved for working to make that happen, and helping businesses connect with the resources they need,” said Van Duyn, who hopes to bridge the connection between rural and urban economies.
“The opioid crisis is a modern day plague that we need to address. We need more mental health providers and better resources,” said Davis, who supports the Chamber’s advocacy for healthcare resources.
Edwards solicited public input on Asheville City Council districts and encouraged citizens to provide feedback on the legislature’s website, ncleg.net. He also directed the public to his educational forum, in an effort to advance educational policy.
“We hope to see the issues raised by our community considered in the upcoming short session,” said Atkins. “The general consensus is optimistic–the results are to be determined.”
The Asheville Chamber will continue to strengthen the business voice from all of WNC by again partnering with at least seven other regional Chambers – including Haywood, Henderson, Brevard/Transylvania, Madison, Black Mountain/Swannanoa, Cashiers and Blowing Rock, announced King.
“This year, we will travel together as one voice during the Annual Raleigh Legislative trip. We hope all of the legislators present today will take the time to join us at our Legislative Reception the evening of June 5th,” said King. Chamber members are invited to join the trip.