Around the Region: State reports record visitor spending in N.C. last year

Published 6:08 pm Thursday, August 9, 2012

Visitor spending in North Carolina hit a new record in 2011, delivering nearly $600 million in local tax revenue, according to the N.C. Department of Commerce. Each of the 100 counties in the state saw an increase in spending by visitors, and seven counties enjoyed double digit increases.
The N.C. Department of Commerce said visitors spent a record $18.4 billion in North Carolina in 2011, an increase of 8.3 percent from 2010. The visitor spending produced $561 million in local tax revenue and $960 million in state tax revenue.
Mecklenburg, Wake and Guilford counties each had more than $1 billion in visitor spending, while Buncombe, Dare, Forsyth and Durham each topped a half billion. Rutherford County had one of the largest percentage increases in spending last year, up 9.7 percent from 2010. Visitor spending rose 7.3 percent in Polk County, 7.4 percent in Buncombe County, 7.8 percent in Transylvania County and 3.1 percent in Henderson County. The visitor spending data was compiled by the U.S. Travel Association.
N.C. Gov. Beverly Perdue noted that the tourism industry in North Carolina directly supports nearly 190,000 jobs and more than $4 billion in payroll income.
– source:, N.C. Governor’s Office, 8-7-12
The real estate market in Western North Carolina continues to show improvement, particularly in the Asheville, N.C. metro area. The inventory of homes in Buncombe County was down nearly a third this spring compared to the spring of 2011, according to figures compiled by Beverly-Hanks & Associates. The median sales price rose from $185,000 to $200,000 in Buncombe County over the same period.
Buncombe County averaged 240 home sales each month in the second quarter of this year, up from 191 in the same quarter of 2010.
New construction is also on the rise, with 648 building permits issued in Asheville through the first five months of this year, well above the 342 permits issued for the same period last year.
The Asheville metro area, which includes Buncombe, Henderson, Madison and Haywood counties, saw job growth for 23 straight months through June. Asheville trailed only the Raleigh/Cary and Durham/Chapel Hill metro areas for job growth in May. The Asheville metro area has added 1,400 new jobs over last year with gains in health services and professional services offsetting losses in government jobs.
– source: Asheville Citizen Times, 8-4-12
The Raleigh, N.C. metro area created new businesses at nearly twice the pace of the U.S. economy between 2008 and the end of 2011, according to PNC Financial’s Mekael Teshome, who prepares market forecasts for the Triangle area. Teshome said the higher level of entrepreneurship in the area should help Raleigh continue to grow jobs at a faster rate than the nation over the next year and beyond.  He predicted Raleigh will see 2 percent annual payroll growth in the fourth quarter and even higher job growth next year.
Teshome said Raleigh is also benefiting from a recovering housing market and an economy that did not slip as much as other areas during the recession. He noted that Raleigh metro area payrolls declined by 1 percent from 2008 to 2011, compared to a drop of 4 percent nationally during the same period.
– source: Triangle Business Journal, 7-24-12
While North Carolina has a bumper crop of corn this year, its apple crop did not fare as well. An April freeze, combined with hailstorms in May, is expected to reduce this year’s crop by approximately 50 percent compared to last year.
The N.C. Cooperative Extension Service estimates that more than 75 percent of the apple crop was lost in Henderson County, the leading apple-producing county in the state. Marvin Owings, director of the Henderson County office of the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service, said this year’s crop may be the worst the county has seen since 1955. Growers say a warm winter caused trees to bloom about two weeks earlier than most years, leaving the crop vulnerable to cold weather swings in the spring. Fortunately, high apple prices may help growers recoup some of their losses from the reduced production.
Despite the down year for apple production, the North Carolina Apple Festival will go on as scheduled from Aug. 31 to Sept. 3 in Hendersonville.
– source:, 8-7-12
Lake Lure ranked as one of America’s eight best lakes in a survey conducted by USA Today. After regional magazine editors nominated 15 finalists, more than 5,000 votes were submitted in the survey to pick the top eight.
Lake Tahoe came in at the top spot, followed by Michigan’s Lake Charlevoix, Alabama’s Lake Martin, Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks and Lake Lure. New York’s Blue Mountain Lake, New Hampshire’s Newfound Lake and Washington’s Lake Crescent filled out the list.
The nomination of Lake Lure described the 720-acre lake as the home of the Dirty Dancing Festival (Aug. 17-18) and the granite spire of Chimney Rock.
– source: USA Today,, 8-4-12
UNC Asheville made this year’s list of the “Top 100 Best Buy Colleges,” published by Forbes magazine. The university was ranked 26th this year, down slightly from its 21st ranking last year.
Forbes’ college rankings are based on the quality of teaching, career prospects, graduation rates and student debt levels. Earlier this year the “Fiske Guide to Colleges” ranked UNC Asheville among the nation’s top colleges, and added its Environmental Studies Program to the list of pre-professional programs with exceptional strength in preparing students for careers.
– source: Asheville Citizen Times, 8-2-12
George Gordon Greenwood, the former president of the Bank of Asheville, has been ordered by a federal judge to pay more than $9 million in restitution to the victims of a fraud he carried at while at the bank’s helm.
U.S. District Judge Henry Herlong Jr. ruled Greenwood is liable for nearly $6 million in restitution to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp after the Bank of Asheville failed last year. The ruling also says Greenwood is liable for more than $3 million to Queen’s Gap Holding Co. Prosecutors acknowledged Greenwood does not have the assets to cover the restitution.
Herlong said if others are convicted in the bank’s failure they, too, could be forced to make restitution.
– source:, 8-6-12
Western Highlands Network is looking for a new, permanent CEO after recently removing Arthur Carder Jr. from the position.
The board of the local management entity (LME), which oversees mental health services in Madison, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Transylvania and Yancey counties, decided to fire Carder Jr., but did not publicly state a reason. Board members did say they were recently surprised to learn that Western Highlands was headed toward a budget deficit of more than $3 million in the current calendar year. A consultant’s report also identified numerous problems in the organization.
Western Highlands Network is specifically responsible for overseeing state-paid and Medicaid-paid mental health services in the eight-county region. Board member Steve Wyatt noted that Western Highlands was mandated by the state to go through a major change at the start of this year, becoming a managed care organization that directly administers the federal Medicaid program. Since then Western Highlands has operated more like an insurance company.
The consultant’s report found a problem with overspending in clinical services, which included paying for some claims that should not have been paid.  Fortunately, the problems have not resulted in the loss of services to patients, according to Julie Henry of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. She said Western Highlands still has a chance to get back in a “positive financial picture” by the end of the year.
Carder had been CEO since 2005. Western Highland’s Chief Operations Officer Charles Schoenheit was named interim CEO.
– source: Asheville Citizen Times, 7-31-12
N.C. Senator Tom Apodaca of Hendersonville recently had successful open-heart surgery at Mission Hospital in Asheville. Apodaca, 54, sought help for what he thought might be just acid reflux, but doctors found it was caused by blocked arteries.
Apodaca advised people should not ignore warning signs from their bodies and should instead seek help from  medical professionals. Apodaca joked that he plans to be back looking like George Clooney in a few months, and he looks forward to wearing clothes that open in the front.
– source:, 8-6-12

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox