Economic Development

Economic Development

Clark Duncan, Executive Director, Economic Development Coalition for Asheville-Buncombe County

The Economic Development Coalition for Asheville-Buncombe County (EDC) is incredibly proud to share news of our partnership to redevelop the former Beacon Mill Site in East Buncombe County. Many locals proudly remember that the Swannanoa Valley was once home to Beacon Blankets, known as the ‘world’s largest blanket mill’. The Mill opened in 1924 and would eventually employ over 2,200 Western North Carolina residents and cement the reputation of our region and our state as a global leader in manufacturing. The demise of the facility in its waning years reflected shifting economic pressures that saw large mill closures across the nation in textiles and related furnishings. This trend was punctuated by the Beacon Mill closure in 2002 and a destructive fire the following year that leveled the historic 40+ acre site.

As collective memory of the site has faded over the past 2 decades, the Asheville Metro Area has grown by over 100,000 new residents and seen an economic resurgence now surpassing US$24 Billion in Annual GDP (current dollars).  Today, over 22,000 Asheville Metro residents are employed in high-wage manufacturing careers driven by a new generation of industries from outdoor recreational products, automotive and aerospace components, to satellite communications and power generation equipment, to name a few. The future of Advanced Manufacturing in Western North Carolina has never been brighter – and the legacy of the Beacon Mill Site has never been more important. 

Purchased in 2019, the vacant Beacon Mill Site has been reimagined for development with new uses that honor its legacy as the cultural, commercial and economic engine of the Swannanoa Valley. From my first meeting with the new, local owners, it was clear that Meredith, Brandon and Casey had a deep respect for the site and its potential to lift the families and economic prospects of the region.  As natives of Buncombe County, they grew up in households supported by the Mill. Those roots had inspired their own success as entrepreneurs, and a determination to reinvest in the community that they still call home.

From that first conversation was born a partnership that will embrace both the history of the site as well as the promising future of our region in clean and sustainable manufacturing. In the very near future, this long-abandoned site will once again be the vibrant heart of the Swannanoa community. Plans will advance the health and vitality of our residents with a world-class greenway and bike park, and catalyze the next generation of economic opportunity by preserving a 10-acre parcel for manufacturing employment. Future commercial, retail and residential investments will follow. These development plans are especially exciting because they illustrate the potential for balance so necessary in our fast-growing region. The rebirth and new plans for the site will feature conservation, recreation and outdoor adventure with the necessity for economic development and job creation, empowering more of our young families to stay and to prosper.  

As a gateway to the Southern Appalachian Mountains, Asheville has long been the East Coast destination for outdoor recreation, attracting adventurous visitors, new residents, outdoor industry leaders and business startups alike. The region has a unique opportunity to build upon the growing reputation of regional businesses like: Diamond Brand Gear, Industry Nine, Cane Creek Cycling Components, Eagles Nest Outfitters, Fox Factory, Legacy Paddlesports, and so many others that embody the entrepreneurial and adventurous spirit of our mountains. Sitting at the intersection of National Forests and ancient rivers, world-class singletrack trails and a brand-new, championship-caliber pump track, the Beacon Mill site could not be better positioned to capture this growth. And the EDC Team could not be more excited to help bring a new generation of innovation, investment and employment to this strategic location, nearly bisecting Interstate-40 and US-Highway 70 corridor between Asheville and Black Mountain, NC. 

Redevelopment and reinvestment in legacy, brownfield sites like the Beacon Mill are critically important to advance our regional goals in economic development and environmental stewardship. They return derelict properties to our tax rolls, and stimulate much needed employment opportunities for the residents and families of the County. Perhaps most importantly, this redevelopment demonstrates the power of partnership in honoring our past, while charting a new path towards a brighter future. To learn more about this 10-acre development opportunity at the heart of the growing Outdoor Industry of Asheville and Buncombe County, please email me directly:  Clark Duncan at

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