As a primary initiative of the “Building the Clean Energy Economy in Western North Carolina” project – a collaboration of key regional organizations representing 31 counties throughout Western North Carolina – a five-phase study was completed by AngelouEconomics in 2011. The purpose of this study was to identify and evaluate any potential clean energy industry clusters that were present in Western North Carolina and to develop a strategy for the growth and support of the clean energy industry throughout the region. A key area of interest centered on finding ways to support a region-wide strategy that addressed opportunities located in the region’s urban hub of Asheville, while paying equal attention to the unique characteristics of Western North Carolina’s rural communities.
As part of its analysis, the AngelouEconomics team identified numerous clean energy assets in Western North Carolina that could be leveraged to support the development of a clean energy hub of national, and perhaps international, significance. Already supporting several nascent clean energy industry clusters that had emerged within the region, Western North Carolina’s highly independent, resourceful and entrepreneurial culture carried much of what is necessary to support a clean energy economy. Despite its assets, however, clean energy businesses in the area had been generally unsuccessful in expanding its focus toward serving markets beyond the Western North Carolina region.
Analysis revealed a capable workforce with a rich heritage of manufacturing, but with a significant need for highly-skilled engineers with advanced degrees. The Western North Carolina region was also constrained by a challenging job market which offered few options for young professionals, part-time or unsuccessful entrepreneurs, and relocating spouses to turn to when in need of steady employment. Although numerous organizations throughout the region were active in economic development and initiatives to support the clean energy industry, there was insufficient coordination of activities between these organizations and a lack of a designated leader for the development and growth of a regional clean energy cluster.
Upon completion of the study, AngelouEconomics delivered a detailed strategy for overcoming the challenges facing the region in the support and growth of its clean energy industries and identified several market niches that would benefit from assets in the region.
- Market Assessment and Clean Energy Cluster Analysis
- Clean Energy Target Industry Analysis
- Clean Energy Supply Chain Gap Analysis
- Industry Site Selection Criteria and Scorecard
- Action Strategy and Final Recommendations
- Implementation Matrix