Job growth projected in Ashe

Wil Petty Staff Writer

November 18, 2013

Ashe County should experience job growth in the upcoming years in healthcare, retail and construction, according to the High Country Workforce Development Board.

The board recently released its 2013 data book which gives information for Ashe and the other High Country counties relating to demographics, unemployment and job growth.

“Obviously, our community is getting a little bit older,” said Chris Robinson, head of Ashe County job development. “As they get older, the healthcare services become more and more important.”

According to data, Ashe County in 2012 had 1,098 jobs in the health care and social assistance industry. By 2017, the county is projected to have 1,416 jobs in that industry.

Another big jump in jobs is expected in the retail industry. In 2012, Ashe County had 1,037 retail jobs and by 2017 that number is expected to jump to 1,118.

“The retail sector relates in large part to tourism in the area,” Robinson said. “The growing tourism dollars in our community are helping grow jobs in that field.”

According to the data book, job growth in the county is also expected to happen in company management, construction and wholesale trade.

Projections have shown that statewide, job growth is expected to be up in 2014.

“North Carolina has lagged behind the national recovery somewhat,” Robinson said. “Generally speaking, the state was two percentage behind the national recovery.”

Robinson said that North Carolina was one of the hardest hit states in the recession. Rural communities, such as Ashe County, have taken longer to recover from the recession.

Job growth is projected in the county, with factories as well.

“One area we should see job growth in the coming year is with GE Aviation’s expansion,” Robinson said. “There will be construction jobs relating to the expansion.”

While the data book is able to give insight to some of the job projections in the area, certain jobs such as manufacturing can be hard to project.

“Those are very hard to project,” Robinson said. “You don’t know what the prospects out there are.”

Robinson heads up the Ashe County Job Development, which works to bring more jobs into the county. They are in ownership of numerous factories in the area including Leviton’s old Jefferson factory and the Tigra Building in West Jefferson.

“Our job is selling Ashe County,” Robinson said. “Part of selling Ashe County is to have something available for a company to look at and move into. You have to have a product and a lot of communities don’t have that.”

Robinson said there has been some interest in some of the buildings the job development board looks over, but nothing is set in stone.

“We continue to hope that our buildings or some other avenue we will be able to bring in additional jobs,” he said.