As the 2020-2021 fiscal year has come to a close, we want to thank all of our members and partners. Your support and engagement throughout the past year has enabled us to accomplish more: to create more opportunities through economic development, to have more impact on policy, to provide more value for our members.
Here are some of the highlights from this year’s accomplishments…
Remained committed to excellence.
- Received an unmodified opinion in the annual audit of Fiscal Year 2020 financial statements.
- Served as the fiscal agent for vital community organizations, including WNC Diversity Engagement Coalition, Young Professionals of Asheville and Folk Heritage Committee.
- Throughout COVID-19 disruption, provided guidance for our members through Virtual Town Halls and webinars, maintained a comprehensive Coronavirus Resource Page on our website, kept in constant contact with local elected officials to provide a voice for business, influenced state legislation on behalf of local area businesses and provided leadership and communications for the One Buncombe fund.
- Enhanced focus on diversity, equity and inclusion with training for staff and new board position of Vice Chair of DEI.
- Using the Community Betterment Foundation, we served as fiscal agent for bridge construction over French Broad River to Pratt & Whitney site.
- Spoke to Urban Land Institute Young Leaders Council on Carolina Trends and participated in a panel on early education in the time of COVID.
- Provided community leadership through representation on Buncombe County Early Childhood Committee, Explore Asheville CEO search, Federal Reserve summit and more.
- Raised more than $2.3 million for AVL 5×5 with 78 investors.
EVENTS & EDUCATION
Fostered business connections.
- Enabled local businesses to connect through Chamber networking events, including Business After Hours, Business Before Hours and Mega Networking.
- Launched a new Professional Networking Group for veterans for a total of five groups that meet weekly to encourage, support and share leads with one another.
- Cultivated 20 Chamber Advocates who champion Chamber initiatives with hands-on volunteering and connect with members to increase engagement as they approach their membership anniversary.
- Formed a relationship and joint membership with Weaverville Business Association and hosted a successful in-person event.
Informed and inspired members through professional development and communications.
- Convened 10 Smart Series workshops in partnership with the WNC Diversity Engagement Coalition to explore topics around diversity, equity and inclusion with nearly 500 attendees.
- Offered inspiration to more than 1,300 women in business through seven WomanUP events, including “Whole Person Wellness” webinar series, virtual Celebration with keynote by Mirna Valerio and salary negotiation webinar in partnership with AAUW.
- Saluted small businesses during Small Business Week.
- Leveraged social media presence with focus on spotlighting member businesses and providing relevant business news and resources, increasing followers and active engagement.
- Published weekly e-newsletter to 7,300+ subscribers. Shared updates on Chamber events and programs, latest COVID-related news, local business and legislative information as well as highlighting member updates and community events.
Cultivated young professionals.
- Young Professionals of Asheville (YPA) adapted programming to keep young professionals connected in spite of COVID-19 restrictions with interactive virtual events like trivia nights and outdoor walking tours.
- Furthering community service goals, YPA hosted monthly virtual events spotlighting local non-profit and ways YPA members could give back, held socially distanced volunteer opportunities and conducted donation drives.
- YPA professional development programs focused on leadership, diversity in the workplace, developing intercultural competency and virtual networking. Also, partnered with Western Carolina University on a four-part business leadership series.
MARKETING & SPONSORSHIP
Enabled businesses to leverage their membership to increase exposure for their business.
- Welcomed more than 174 new members and served 1,600+ member businesses.
- Our website ashevillechamber.org generated over 385,000 page views.
- Provided marketing opportunities to 300+ businesses through Total Resource Campaign, engaging 22 community volunteers and generating $818,925 in support.
- Promoted 45 restaurants during Asheville Restaurant Week, including 7 new members.
- Increased number of member organizations led by people of color by 87%.
- Created sponsorship opportunity for Business Before Hours for small businesses to self-promote, and increased capacity for businesses to serve as a virtual host by assisting with video/live streaming with sponsors.
Delivered additional value to members.
- Crafted 26 Asheville Spotlights, profiling member businesses on our website, newsletter and social media.
- Generated 360,000 online impressions for Featured Members on our website.
- Connected with more than 1,000 members, sharing good will and encouragement and building retention and relationships.
- Developed Ask a Professional benefit for new members to have access to free consultation with other members in key industry categories.
- Supported new members with 90-day introductory membership and enhanced new member on-boarding.
- Created new opportunities for sponsor recognition through social media.
- Managed MAHEC’s employee appreciation efforts by coordinating the purchase of 600 gift cards ($120,000 value) from 36 local businesses.
- Customized membership directory listings to highlight business response and resources during COVID-19 disruption and highlighted member businesses reopening via social media posts.
Celebrated local business accomplishments.
- Conducted virtual toasts plus 10 in-person ribbon cuttings to celebrate new members, grand openings and business milestones.
- Celebrated National Women in Small Business Month by featuring 22 member women in social media.
- Recognized business successes with the Sky High Growth Awards; 21 businesses honored.
- Presented leadership awards to 11 individuals and organizations who lead the business community through excellence in service, entrepreneurship, ingenuity, and willingness to support the community through their contributions of expertise and time.
- Awarded Small Business of the Month to 10 member partners that exemplify generosity in giving back to the community and businesses in WNC.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT & RESEARCH
Nurtured high-growth entrepreneurs through Venture Asheville.
- Venture Asheville collaborated with GrowthX Capital, based in Nashville, on the Market Acceleration Program (MXP) to fund a 12-week program for 10 nascent start-ups in Asheville.
- Supported 3 successful NCIDEA Grant applications for Venture Asheville founders worth $70,000. Congrats Gravitl, Cardstalk and Dare Vegan Cheese!
- Grew the Elevate Mentorship Program serving 19 new start-ups, representing 276 new jobs and $82 million in new company revenues.
- The Venture 15 and Venture Asheville Honors recognized the 15 Fastest Growing Start-ups representing $62 million in local revenue and employing nearly 345 people.
- The Asheville Angels invested $500,000 in early stage tech companies.
- Venture Asheville Elevate companies raised a record-setting $12.2 million in FY2021.
Capitalized on research expertise to provide insights and support data-driven decision making.
- 21st Annual Metro Economy Outlook keynote featured renowned economist and author, Dr. James F. Smith.
- Supported successful regional application for $116,000 in EDA funding for the WNC Outdoor Economy Asset Inventory and Gap Analysis to be completed in FY2022.
- Supported 300+ research requests.
- Delivered impactful regional projects for Johnson Price Sprinkle, PA; Asheville Area Arts Council; Leadership Asheville; Asheville City and Buncombe County government.
- Featured in Chamber Executive Magazine for innovative best practices and contributions to Chamber of Commerce operations.
- Maintained and communicated the Asheville Metro Cost of Living Index.
Supported a thriving economy through business recruitment and local business expansions.
- Pratt & Whitney announced plans to invest $650 million in a new Advanced Turbine Airfoil Manufacturing Facility in Biltmore Park West, creating 800 new jobs.
- Borg Warner ETTS announced plans to invest $62.5 million in its Arden facility, creating 100 new jobs.
- System Logistics Corporation announced plans to invest $3 million in its Vista Industrial Park facilities, creating 47 new jobs.
- Identified 56 leads representing $2.7B in potential capital investment and over 21,000 potential new jobs for the community.
- Convened 17 executive meetings and community site visits with new project clients and 138 executive meetings in local industry.
Fostered workforce development.
- Hosted over 30+ manufacturing site leaders and CEOs for exclusive gatherings to build rapport and leadership capacity with peers.
- Hosted several hundred manufacturing site leaders for virtual meetings and webinars to discuss COVID-19 updates and response.
- Hosted 20+ area college students in the NEXT AVL mentorship program, connecting local college students from diverse backgrounds with area employers for 9-month mentorship.
- Conducted three virtual and one in-person career expo supporting over 150 employers, attracting hundreds of jobs seekers over the course of the pandemic year.
- Launched partnership with Raleigh-based District C, an innovative workforce development program pairing diverse area high school students with local business challenges for facilitated problem solving and team building outcomes.
- Launched Inclusive Hiring Partners in July 2020 with grant funding and support from the Golden Leaf Foundation to connect residents experiencing significant barriers to employment to available, well-paying jobs.
- Built partnerships with 21 local employers and 15 participants in target industries of manufacturing, health care, and construction, as well as two partners in local government.
LIVE & VISIT
Showcased our community and local businesses to visitors.
- Successfully adapted Visitor Center operations as governmental orders changed.
- Welcomed 90,000 visitors at the Asheville Visitor Center in a safe and friendly way and referred them to local businesses.
- Showcase the products and designs of 107 local Chamber member businesses in the Asheville Shop.
ADVOCACY & POLICY
Fostered business connections with elected officials.
- Hosted Virtual Elected Officials Reception with 188 attendees and regional elected officials.
- Successfully held hybrid Legislative Wrap-Up, discussing 2020’s short session highlights and wins.
- Conducted a series of business sentiment surveys to provide feedback to elected officials on relevant and timely issues.
- Created voting resources including local election guide and interview series with City Council candidates.
Kept members informed on policy issues.
- Held Policy on Tap events, both virtual and in-person, featuring election previews and labor market issues in the local food and beverage industry.
- Moderated multiple town halls to help local businesses understand COVID relief accessibility, re-imagining public safety, vaccine roll-out and employment issues.
- Coordinated meeting with Asheville Police on how downtown businesses should best handle protesters without escalation.
- Monitored state, local and federal legislative action and reported to membership through weekly policy newsletter, general newsletter and meetings.
Collaborated with business and community leaders.
- Convened Virtual Intercity Visit in collaboration with Lexington, KY and Chattanooga, TN; discussing issues around Tourism, Talent Pipelines and Digital Equity.
- Convened Regional Business Leaders and council on governments to engage in effort on policy advocacy in 5-county MSA(+).