Around the Region: N.C. wine industry grows nearly 60 percent in 2005-09

Published 9:58 am Friday, October 7, 2011

The economic impact of North Carolina’s wine industry grew by nearly 60 percent and the number of wineries doubled between 2005 and 2009, according to a study recently completed by the N.C. Commerce Department.
The state estimates the wine industry had an overall impact of $1.28 billion on the state’s economy in 2009, up 58 percent from four years earlier. According to the survey, the industry added 1,900 jobs over the four-year period, supporting 7,600 jobs total as of 2009.
The state said much of the increase can be attributed to more tourists visiting North Carolina’s 106 wineries, spread out over 49 counties. Nearly half of the jobs in the state’s wine and grape industry in 2009 were supported by tourism.
“This growing industry is a significant economic engine for North Carolina, helping to preserve farmland and bring revenue to our rural communities,” said N.C. Governor Bev Perdue.
North Carolina’s wine industry has rapidly emerged as one of the largest in the country, ranking ninth in the United States in 2009. The number of wineries in North Carolina has grown five-fold in the last decade.
For information about the state’s wineries, maps, events and more go to
– source: N.C. Governor’s Office, 9/21/11
Facebook is quickly moving ahead with plans for a second data center in Rutherford County. Less than a year after the company broke ground on its first data center in the county, Facebook announced this week it plans to immediately begin construction on a second data center building near Forest City.
Work on the first data center created about 1,500 construction jobs, and work on the second building is expected to demand the same level of construction employment for at least another year.
The first data center currently employs about 30 people, and the expansion is expected to result in about 10 more permanent technology jobs.
“We believe the expanding operations and continued construction activities will have a positive impact on Rutherford County’s economy,” said Facebook Data Center Manager George Henry.
– source:
Nearly 30 percent of children in Western North Carolina are struggling with hunger, according to a study released recently by MANNA FoodBank and Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger relief organization.
The study, entitled “Map the Meal Gap: Child Food Insecurity 2011,” found that 29.9 percent of children under the age of 18 in Western North Carolina are “food insecure.”
North Carolina ranks 11th in the nation with a child food insecurity rate of 27.3 percent, and Buncombe County nearly matches that average at 27.5 percent. Nearby counties have even higher rates, such as Graham County at 39 percent and McDowell at 35 percent, according to the study.
“It should shock every single person in this community that we could let this happen here,” said Renae Brame, executive director of the Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry, a partner with MANNA. “Unless it’s happening right in people’s backyards, they just don’t see it. We all have to see it, and it has to be everybody’s responsibility to take a stand.”
MANNA Executive Director Cindy Threlkeld said the figures reinforce the stories they hear on a daily basis about children who are “food insecure,” or don’t know when their next meal is coming because of poverty or other issues.
Threlkeld said people can contribute time, money or food to help MANNA and its partner agencies provide more help “so that one in four children in WNC won’t have to struggle with food insecurity.”
– source: Asheville Citizen Times, 8/24/11
The south was the only region of the county to show increases in both the poverty rate and the number of people in poverty in 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The poverty rate in the south climbed to 16.9 percent in 2010, up from 15.7 percent in 2009.  The number of people living in poverty in the south rose to 19.1 million in 2010, up from 17.6 million in the prior year.
The census bureau reports that median household income declined in the south from $46,368 in 2009 to $45,492 in 2010.
Despite the 1.9-percent decline in the region, median household income was up slightly in South Carolina during the same period, rising 1.5 percent to $41,709. It was the first increase in median household income in South Carolina since 2007, the year before the recession began.
The census bureau also released figures showing that Spartanburg had one of the lowest median household incomes in the state. The bureau reported that Spartanburg households had a median income of $34,000 between 2005 and 2009, trailing Greenville at $38,209 and Mauldin at $56,347.
The south was not the leading region for declines in income and earnings in 2010. According to the census bureau, the midwest saw the biggest decline at 8.4 percent, followed by the west at 6.7 percent, the south at 6.3 percent and the northeast at 3.1 percent.
– source:, 9/14/11
A new program aimed at giving more state government contracts to North Carolina businesses is working, according to N.C. Gov. Bev Perdue. Her office said the state has awarded 28 price-match contracts to North Carolina businesses since April, keeping $10.7 million in tax dollars in the state.
The N.C. Business Preference program allows North Carolina-based businesses to match a low bid submitted by a non-North Carolina business. The original bid from the North Carolina business must have been within 5 percent or $10,000 of the lowest bid.
The governor’s office gives the example of R.W. Moore Equipment Company in Wake County, which matched a low bid of $2.4 million for motor graders after its original bid was within 5 percent of a Virginia company’s bid.
“I strongly encourage North Carolina businesses to take advantage of this opportunity,” said Gov. Perdue, who created the price-matching program to help grow jobs in the state. “For just 5 percent of the bid, you may be able to beat an out-of-state company. That’s good news for you, for your employees, and for the state – where we want to keep North Carolinians in good jobs today and in the future.”
The list of 21 North Carolina companies that have benefited from the program so far includes North Carolina LLC of Asheville, which was awarded a $41,117 contract to provide food services for the N.C. Department of Correction. The Asheville company’s bid was original $1,330 more than a bid from a Florida business.
Any North Carolina business interested in participating in the program can get more information at
– source:, 9/16/11
North Carolina’s State Health Plan overpaid by as much as $49 million over the past three years, according to a report issued recently by the state’s auditors.
The report said Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, which administers the health plan for the state, tagged only 1 percent of health care payments as overpayments. However, state auditor Beth Wood said studies show that 3 to 10 percent were overpayments, resulting from either mistakes or fraud. Specifically, Wood found the health plan overpaid N.C. Baptist Hospital by $1.34 million.
The state health plan, which provides coverage for 660,000 state workers, teachers, retirees and dependents, has lost money for years. The General Assembly and Governor Bev Perdue reached a compromise this year on health care reforms, which include making workers pay for their own coverage for the first time. State auditors also have recommended the use of software that will catch potential overpayments and provide more oversight of the state’s contract with Blue Cross Blue Shield.
– source:, 9/13/11;, 9/13/11
The Greenville Hospital System University Medical Center will be adding 120 full time positions when its new budget takes effect in October. The hospital system’s new $1.5 billion budget, up 4.7 percent from the current year, will allow it to add more physicians and support staff in its urology, general surgery, ear-nose-and-throat, pain management, plastic surgery and neurosurgery departments. GHS also is planning to open a new urgent-care practice in the Greer area in the summer of 2012.
– source:, 9/27/11
North Carolina has received a $4 million federal grant to do preliminary analysis and engineering for a high-speed rail link between Raleigh and Washington, D.C. Virginia received $4 million for construction of the rail corridor between Washington D.C. and Richmond.
Eventually, the high-speed rail corridor is expected to go from Boston to Charlotte. The high-speed rail link between Richmond and Raleigh, which could be completed between 2018 and 2022, is expected to reduce travel time between the two cities to about two hours, approximately 90 minutes faster than the current schedule.
– source:, 9/26/11
Rutherford County Schools will have to pay about $731,000 to Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy because it did not calculate funds owed to the charter school correctly, according to the N.C. Court of Appeals.
The appeals court judges agreed unanimously with a trial court decision that said the school district used an incorrect formula, resulting in lower payments to the charter school over three years. The court ruled Rutherford County Schools should base its formula on all the money in an account for the charter school, even if some of the funds are designated for state and federal programs, such as Head Start and More at Four.
Thomas Jefferson had argued that it was owed more than $900,000 because the school district had shifted money from one account to another in the middle of the 2009-10 fiscal year. But the appeals court ruled the money transfer was lawful.
– source:, Gary D. Robertson, The Associated Press, 9/20/11

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