JEFFERSON-Slowly, surely, Ashe County’s long-term strategic planning process is moving forward – and you’re invited along for the ride.
Ashe Vision will host a public meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 29, at Jefferson United Methodist Church on Main Street in Jefferson.
“We value your ideas, so please join us…to hear updates, share feedback and to explore our next steps,” according to Ashe Vision planners.
Ashe Vision officially got off the ground in 2015, according Josh Roten, president of Ashe Vision, but the group can trace its roots back farther to a pep talk given by Blue Ridge Electric CEO and Doug Johnson at a chamber of commerce luncheon in March 2014.
Johnson reflected on the success Caldwell County has enjoyed in recent years thanks to its own strategic planning process and reminded leaders that Ashe must create its own opportunities to grow, listing the New River, Wilkes Community College, the Blue Ridge Parkway and our friendly, caring and reliable citizens among our greatest assets.
The group launched informally with just a handful of members in the months following Johnson’s remarks, but officially formed Ashe Vision last spring with a 21-member board, according to Roten.
That board’s membership now reads like a virtual Who’s Who of local leaders and includes Roten, Ashe Vision Vice President Michael Lea, Bob Washburn as treasurer, Kay Sexton as secretary, along with Greg Warmuth, Sam Yearick, Chris Robinson, Carolyn Shepherd, Scott Turnmyre, Brantley Price, Edward Hinson, Patricia Calloway, Gary Brown, Laura Lambeth, Jane Lonon, Cathy Barr, Jimmy Blevins, Perry Miller, Alan Merck, Cabot Hamilton and Phyllis Yates.
The group also hired Chris Aycock, the president of Raleigh-based consulting firm The Aycock Group, to help develop the overall plan for Ashe Vision and to help lead the group through its community meeting sessions which kicked off in early June.
After slowly building steam, the project hosted its first community meetings, including three public forum and a fourth designed to gain feedback from local industry leaders, earlier this summer.
According to many of the responses at the community meetings Ashe County is home to a strong educational system, offers a business friendly climate, friendly people that can work well together and can offer residents an outstanding quality of life.
Healthcare offerings and strong grassroots leadership were also listed among our local strengths.
Problem areas outlined in the report include an inability to attract or retain young people, a lack of available infrastructure or access to capital, entry level jobs simply don’t pay enough compared to the rest of North Carolina and the skill sets of our citizens don’t match the skills local employers need.
Other challenges include a “cycle of poverty,” a lack of affordable housing and an aging population, along with a lack of branding and the perception of mountain people by those from outside the area.
“We feel like there was some excitement and energy at the initial meetings and we want to take advantage of that momentum to get started on this,” Roten said in August.
Reach Adam Orr at 336-846-7164.