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Jackson Economic Development Director announces business expansions, grant opportunities

By Kristin Fox

At the final work session in 2022 of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners, Tiffany Henry, Economic Development Director, presented the board with a “good news update” of the expansion of two Jackson County businesses, American Sewing Corporation and Innovation Brewing.

In December, Henry got the official word that American Sewing Corporation had been awarded a grant to expand their existing manufacturing facility. The North Carolina Department of Commerce awarded the textile manufacturer a $60,000 grant for a 12,000 square feet expansion of their facility on Harold Street. 

The grant will help the business provide a total of 36 jobs for local employees. Twelve of those positions will be full-time permanent jobs directly tied to the grant because of wage and benefits requirements. The new jobs will pay an average of $18 an hour plus benefits.

 American Sewing Corporation is a full-service manufacturing that “delivers top-of-the-line manufacturing services including initial in-house design and engineering review capabilities to turn ideas and concepts into tangible prototypes and final products.” The corporation has the capabilities to assemble as well as bring projects to completion at any stage. American Sewing Corporation is proud to be an American company that specializes in cut and sew for American-made textile products.

“We are really excited about this opportunity for American Sewing Corporation and Jackson County,” said Henry. “The company’s expansion of its facilities will be a $2 million investment in Jackson County.”

“This is the first building reuse grant we have had in Jackson County; the grant required a $3,000 match from the county,” said Henry. “We worked very closely with the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina through the grant application process.”

In December, the county closed on the sale of the Tuskasegee Mills Building to Innovation Brewing making possible the expansion of the brewery’s production. The former manufacturing building located on Scotts Creek Road just past the health department will provide an additional 100,000 square feet for the brewery. Innovation Brewing will move its production into the space adding an additional 22 jobs in Jackson County.

Innovation Brewery has been in business in Jackson County for over nine years.  Currently, the company has three locations — the original taproom and production facility in downtown Sylva, Innovation Station in downtown Dillsboro and InnoWhee, the taproom on the campus of Western Carolina University.

“Innovation Brewery’s expansion will be a $3 million investment in Jackson County,” said Henry. “The property was county-owned so now it will be back on the tax record.” 

In other economic news for Jackson County, Henry reported that Jackson County has been approved for the Creating Outdoor Recreation Economies Grant (CORE) offered through the North Carolina Department of Commerce’s Main Street & Rural Planning Center. 

The grant offers a technical assistance program offering Outdoor Recreation Economy Strategic Planning and Asset Development services to leverage the abundant outdoor recreation resources available across the state of North Carolina to bolster local economic vitality. The program will focus on activities communities can do to: increase tourism; encourage small business development; position communities to attract outdoor gear manufacturing industries; plan for outdoor recreation asset and infrastructure development; and enhance quality of life improvements for residents.

The outdoor recreation economy is a broad economic sector that includes consumer spending on things such as guides, outfitters, and equipment. Outdoor recreation also fuels employment and consumer spending in other sectors such as manufacturing, retail, transportation, food service, tourism, travel, and more. 

The visioning process will identify recommendations and activities to build an ecosystem of places where people participate in outdoor recreation, small business support, outdoor recreation infrastructure that increases quality of life for residents, tourism, creative placemaking, and more. These elements work together to increase economic opportunity and community vitality.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) approved by the local governing board is required to engage the NC Department of Commerce’s Main Street & Rural Planning Center in the planning process. According to Henry, a MOU will be forthcoming before the commissioners at their January meeting.

“The program will allow us to look at our outdoor economy and what we can do to support that,” said Henry. “It will provide asset mapping, an inventory of all outdoor recreation and associated industry assets available within the community. It will help us to figure where gaps may exist as well as what we can do to support and encourage entrepreneurship in the outdoor recreation economy.

“We know we have natural assets, but this program will help us to evaluate whether we are taking advantage of these assets, what is in place, and what we can do better,” she added.

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