ASHEVILLE — Buncombe County Commissioners voted to authorize incentives to Avadim Technologies, a life-sciences company that promises to bring 551 new jobs and invest $25.4 million in the area.

Currently located on Thompson Street, Avadim Technologies now employees 56 people full-time. The company is planning to move to Black Mountain to create a 100,000 square-foot plant and hire 551 people over the next four-and-a-half years.

The average salary of each position will be around $50,946. But a few citizens and commissioners expressed concern that this mean salary doesn’t really reflect the median salary most employees will receive. There will be 100 jobs at $89,000 and 161 jobs at $64,000, but the majority, 290, will be at $30,000.

“I’m very conflicted with this because I’m supportive of some of the jobs,” Commissioner Ellen Frost said. “But to set up 290 people for jobs where they’ll have a very tough time, I would urge you to come up with better answer for taxpayers about where money is going.”

The county would give $881,960 of taxpayer money to Avadim over the course of five years in exchange for this investment in jobs and infrastructure.

Frost also expressed concern on housing for new employees, and Commissioner Al Whitesides asked whether there was a plan for childcare.

Steven Woody, CEO of Avadim, said that because the new location will be out of downtown, it will be in an area where housing will hopefully be more affordable, and the company has looked at providing childcare near its new location. The company is still doing research on that, he said.

Frost said she gave one of Avadim’s new employees a car ride recently. She learned that he lived in public housing and was hopeful that his new job would be his way out.

Gov. Pat McCrory visited the new site in Black Mountain in September and heralded Avadim for making what he called what one of the biggest jobs announcements in the state in the past decade.

Commissioner Brownie Newman said this could be creating more jobs than any project he’s given consideration to while working in local government.

“It really is a public-private partnership that makes that happen,” said Woody, who is an Asheville native.

What do they do?

Avadim Technologies has a product line called Theraworx that helps skin wounds heal.

“We’re a company that goes in and topically optimizes your skin so that we improve your immune health,” Woody said.

The company is planning to sell its products to hospitals, and will be in 40,000 pharmacies across the country by October, Woody said. Products are now sold locally at Sona Pharmacy.

Request for $4 million affordable-housing funds

Also discussed at Tuesday’s meeting, albeit briefly, was a potential affordable housing project. David Nash from the Asheville Housing Authority asked county commissioners for $4 million to support building 212 new affordable housing units, which includes replacing 96 units that are currently subsidized.

The same people who currently qualify to live in the 96 subsidized units will get to apply and pay the same price, Commissioner Newman said.

Housing would support families earning between $7.25 and $16 per hour. There are no handicap accessible units now, and with this plan, 184 units would be fully accessible or able to be converted to accessibility.

Asheville City Council has already pledged $4.2 million to the project.

Commissioners heard the request from Nash and listened to residents show support for the project, but they took no action. Newman said he and a few other commissioners met with the Housing Authority last week and discussed the project at length, and he is unsure if the commissioners will support it. The decision will be made in June when the new budget is created for 2018. The budget goes into effect July 1.

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Amanda James is a contributing government reporter for Carolina Public Press.

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