Unemployment Rises Some More: State and local unemployment rates continue to climb, according to new figures from the Employment Security Commission of North Carolina. The data, from December 2008, indicates that the state's unemployment rate went from 7.8 percent in November to 8.7 percent.
Of the state's 100 counties, 97 saw an unemployment increase from the previous month. The Asheville metropolitan statistical area's unemployment rose from 6.1 percent to 6.7 percent.
On the national front, the unemployment rate was 7.2 percent, up from 6.8 percent in November.
Realserv Ramps Up Plans, Signs Brad Daugherty: Asheville-based company Realserv, which plans to set up a sizable customer-support center for real-estate agents, is moving along with plans to bring hundreds of jobs to the area and last week landed a local celebrity spokesperson. Former basketballer and current ESPN NASCAR announcer Brad Daugherty has become Realserv's corporate spokesman and strategic-development officer, the company announced last week, and the company's leaders have ramped up their estimate of the number of employees they plan to hire.
"One of the essential criteria for my involvement with a local enterprise is its ability to bring new, high-paying jobs to Asheville," Daugherty said in a press release. "The very real possibility of Realserv accomplishing that goal -- in the hundreds -- is why I'm on board."
A few months ago, Realserv CEO Shannon Van Etten predicted that Realserv would create some 600 jobs; now, "based on new service agreements and planned company acquisitions," he says, the company will hire as many as 1,600 people during the next five years.
The company's next step, Van Etten says, will be to choose a facility to handle early operations. Then, Realserv plans to undertake a search for a 400,000-square-foot permanent campus. Stay tuned to The Biz for further developments at this closely watched company, and see Realserv's Web site at www.realserv.com.
Local Agritourism Grant: The Asheville-based Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project has been awarded a $33,500 grant from the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, a federally funded regional nonprofit. ASAP plans to use the grant funds to provide new tools and training for promoting agritourism in Western North Carolina, says Program Director Peter Marks. "This project is about educating people and helping them develop local tools for promoting the farms in their area," he reports.
Thanks to the grant and partnerships with economic-development agencies such as AdvantageWest, ASAP can help smaller groups set up a farm tour, create a farm brochure for their local welcome center, or (in the case of restaurants) feature local produce, he explains. There are 12,000 farms in WNC, Marks points out. "They're not all full-time [ventures], but that's still a huge impact on the economy." Visit www.asapconnections.org to learn more.
Arts Biz Boot Camp: A successful career in the arts sector requires more than talent -- it takes good business sense too. The Asheville-based nonprofit arts booster HandMade in America will host an Arts Business Institute Arts Business Boot Camp on March 7 and 8 to share "the fundamentals of marketing for artists."
The weekend workshop will be held at Haywood Community College in Clyde. The main faculty will be Nancy Markoe, a designer and gallery owner from Florida, and Milon Townsend, a glass artist and writer from New York. They'll cover topics ranging from finding your market to creating a product line to keeping up with the tough economic scene.
Visit www.artsbusinessinstitute.org for price and registration details, or call Megan Williams at HandMade at 252-0121.