Fourteen members of BLINC assembled at WCU’s new Asheville branch on Friday for our spring workshop. I drove up on Thursday after lunch with two librarian friends for a hike at the NC Arboretum near the Blue Ridge Parkway and dinner downtown. All three of us enjoyed the two-day break from spring busyness. Exams had just begun at UNCG, ending a long semester of research consultations and classroom work and I was a little burned out. I came back refreshed and ready to tackle a few more peer review evaluations, science liaison search committee work, and liaison reorganization planning. (Tomorrow the liaisons meet to form our subject and functional teams and set preliminary team goals and communication strategies. Details in my next post.)
WCU’s Betsy Clementson and WFU’s Mary Scanlon, our chair, did a wonderful job of planning the creative BLINC workshop agenda. Our morning speaker was Scott Hamilton, President and CEO of AdvantageWest, Western North Carolina’s regional economic development agency. There are seven such agencies across the state. Mr. Hamilton described AdvantageWest’s areas of focus: advanced manufacturing, entrepreneurship, films (ex. “Hunger Games”), the green economy, and food and natural products. In terms of consumers the later area of focus is most associated with the Asheville area. In relatively short time 13 breweries and 3 distilleries have opened, with cider and sake producers coming in this summer. Sierra Nevada will be opening its first east coast brewery in the area next winter; New Belgium will follow in 2015 with a downtown site.
Mr. Hamilton also discussed some bio-energy start-ups and the need to encourage more young people to enter manufacturing careers. He noted that while the number of manufacturing workers has dropped significantly in the state, the total wages for manufacturing have not dropped much, reflecting the growth in well-paid manufacturing jobs. Mr. Hamilton added that such jobs are increasingly clean, varied, and interesting and are now no risker for longevity of employment than most other industries.
The BLINC librarians discussed with Mr. Hamilton how he and other job creators use library resources (or not) and other data sources. He and Betsy may collaborate in the future. He also gave us a heads-up on the state entrepreneurship conference this fall in Charlotte; BLINC and NC LIVE will try to get together to have a presence there.
Next we spend ten minutes on BLINC business and then heard ASU’s Leslie Farison recap her recent semester in China learning about how academic libraries work over there. Then we went to lunch.
After lunch we drove over to the Highlands Brewery on the edge of town for a tour and discussion of their supply chain (supporting several family businesses and farms at both ends of the chain, ex. using hops waste for feed) and local economic impact (ex. hosting local music as well as creating jobs). The tour reflected some key points in Mr. Hamilton’s discussion of supporting entrepreneurship, developing local niche industries that can become nationally known, and promoting manufacturing. And it was fun. BLINC is a really cool group to provide networking and educational opportunities like this.