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    Issue Focus: Jobs Incentives

    Why do cities struggle to attract and create jobs? And what could Asheville do differently? Here's one of our periodic deep dives into how local governments pay to attract business from out of area (and why that's, often as not, a losing proposition.) Rich lays out 8 principles for driving sustainable, local, career-focused job growth in the area. 


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    Candidate Questionnaire: Asheville Chamber of Commerce

    Rank these city priorities 1-5:

    1.) Bringing in high-paying jobs, 2.) Affordable Housing, 3.) Improved Transportation, 4.) Public Safety, 5.) Creating more parks, bike lanes, and greenways

    Briefly explain your reasons for your first priority choice in the previous question.

    As much as we need to tackle the affordability crisis by growing the supply of affordable housing, it's more important to get Asheville workers better access to middle- and high-income, career-track jobs, so more can afford housing at the prices we have. We are not going to close the affordability gap only by controlling rents, but by boosting incomes at the other end, as well. That's a typically underutilized, reactive city function: city governments wait for a business (or outside EDC) to approach them with a proposal, usually one calculated to benefit the relocating business more than the government or local workforce. Ideally, I think, we would see the city proactively working to grow high-potential, career-track businesses that are native to the area, with an eye to growth we could achieve with less (in incentive terms) and sustain over the long term.

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    Dear Neighbors,

    Dear neighbors,

    First, thank you for the trust so many of you placed in me during the last city election. Yes, it was disappointing to come in first runner-up at the end of a bruising race, but I went to bed on election night sunburned and elated, proud to have run the hardest-working campaign of the season. The next morning I applied for every open city board and commission seat at the time. Things have been nonstop ever since.

    So we've arrived in 2017 with many of the issues we talked about last time still unresolved. The city still struggles to be an affordable and sustaining home to many. The character of the community is more threatened than ever by traffic, a weak job market, adverse legislation and the impacts of being a highly-commodified tourism economy. We have more hotels opening than ever, but fewer affordable places to live. And despite passing massive bonds in 2016 to pay for parks, roads and affordable housing, city government hasn't yet figured how to balance old needs with new ones, the steady creep of gentrification against the needs of locals, the 90,000-and-counting conflicting ideas of what Asheville is supposed to be.

    But I have hope. It's clearer than ever that the root thing that makes this "Asheville" to all of us is the feeling of a genuine, diverse, working, small town. A place whose natives and newcomers, Baptists and tattoo artists live cheek-by-jowl and pull together for the community. A place that's easy to get around. A place that preserves its buildings and history. A place that lets others live and do as they like, that encourages them, even. A city for locals. A place that holds itself out as a bastion of tolerance and commonsense old mountain progressivism. A place that feels beautiful and authentic.

    I believe we can hold onto all that even if our population balloons past 100,000 (as expected in the next decade) or 200,000. The core character can be saved. But it's going to take work: local government that's daring, knowledgeable and committed, with the public always pushing it to try harder. I have a few thoughts about how it can happen. I'm sure you have some I haven't heard yet. If you have an idea or want to be part of this effort, please contact me using the link below and get involved. I'll work with anyone, always have.

    I'm ready to work,