Press release from AdvantageWest and the Appalachian Regional Commission:
The president and CEO of AdvantageWest Economic Development Group, Scott T. Hamilton, has been appointed executive director of the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC).
With its headquarters in Washington, D.C., ARC is a regional economic development agency that represents a partnership of federal, state, and local government working for sustainable community and economic development in Appalachia. Hamilton begins his appointment on Sept. 8.
AdvantageWest is a nonprofit regional economic development organization that has served the western region of North Carolina, an area of about 10,000 square miles, since 1994.
Each year, ARC provides funding for economic development projects in the 13-state Appalachian Region, including Western North Carolina, in areas such as business development, education and job training, telecommunications, infrastructure, community development, housing, and transportation. During Hamilton’s nine-year tenure at AdvantageWest—the past five years as head of the organization—ARC grants have helped support AdvantageWest programs such as Blue Ridge Food Ventures.
ARC Federal Co-Chair Earl F. Gohl stated that he is “very pleased that Scott is joining the Commission as its executive director. He is a long time resident of the Region whose career has focused on creating stronger economies in rural North Carolina. His history of leadership in working collaboratively and building partnerships to attract investment fits nicely with the mission of the Appalachian Regional Commission.”
The states’ co-chair of the ARC, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, said that “on behalf of the Appalachian Regional Commission, I welcome Scott Hamilton as the new executive director. Having lived and worked in Appalachia for decades, Scott understands the region and its assets and challenges. He has the experience, leadership skills, and vision to develop and advance programs that respond to the needs of Appalachian residents.”
“This is a tremendous opportunity for Scott, and we are extremely proud that one of Western North Carolina’s own was selected to take the helm at the Appalachian Regional Commission. This appointment certainly recognizes his years of successfully leading economic development efforts across our broad geographic region,” said W. Thomas (Tom) Alexander, chair of the AdvantageWest board of directors. “We offer our heartfelt congratulations to Scott and appreciate his commitment to job creation in our area. AdvantageWest has always had an excellent working relationship with ARC and we are excited about future opportunities to work with Scott in serving Western North Carolina.”
During Hamilton’s career with AdvantageWest, the organization has played a key role in numerous major job announcements, from Germany-based Reich GmbH and Canada-based Linamar Corporation to Lionsgate film studio choosing the region as the location for its global blockbuster The Hunger Games.
Hamilton worked for almost a year to help recruit the country’s second largest craft brewery, Sierra Nevada, to Western North Carolina when it sought a location east of the Mississippi for its east coast operation. Having also helped bring New Belgium Brewing Company to the region, in 2013 Hamilton was presented the Leadership in Science & Entrepreneurism award from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center for his efforts to help develop the craft brewing industry in Western North Carolina.
Also during his tenure, AdvantageWest’s Advantage Opportunity Fund grew to more than $1.4 million in 37 seed-stage loans to high-growth entrepreneurial companies in WNC from an initial investment of $40,000. In addition, AdvantageWest’s agribusiness initiative, Blue Ridge Food Ventures, a shared-use commercial kitchen and food business incubator, expanded its services by developing the first shared-use natural products manufacturing facility in the country. The 11,000-square-foot facility also recently added co-packing services, which is attracting interest from across the U.S.
Hamilton started at AdvantageWest in 1997 as director of marketing and site development, leaving for seven years to serve as executive vice president of the Henderson County Chamber of Commerce, then the founding president and CEO of the Henderson County Partnership for Economic Development Inc. He was recruited back to AdvantageWest in 2006 for the position of executive vice president. He also served an earlier stint with the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission as the retention and expansion specialist and as its interim executive director.
He serves on numerous state and regional boards and was elected president of the North Carolina Economic Development Association in 2008. He is a graduate of the nationally recognized Economic Development Institute at the University of Oklahoma, the North Carolina Rural Center’s Rural Economic Development Institute and the University of North Carolina Greensboro.
“I am humbled about the confidence the Appalachian Regional Commission has put in me. It will be a huge challenge—but exciting opportunity—to go from the leadership of a 23-county organization to one covering 13 states,” said Hamilton. “I’m thrilled about the offer to serve Appalachia in this way, though it is bittersweet to leave behind my colleagues and our board of directors at AdvantageWest. These are some of the most dedicated individuals I’ve ever had the privilege of working with, and I’m deeply grateful for their service.”
Hamilton noted that, as first-time grandparents, he and his wife will maintain a home in Henderson County, returning as often as possible to see their two daughters and one-year-old grandson as well as his parents in Watauga County. “I’ve been on the road traveling our 10,000-square-mile region for the nine years I’ve worked at AdvantageWest,” said Hamilton. “It will be no different to go from D.C. back to the area in order to enjoy time with the friends and family we have here in Western North Carolina—not to mention continued opportunities to work with colleagues in economic development.”