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From the EvolveEnergy Partnership, shared Oct. 13:

Logo courtesy of the EvolveEnergy Partnership.

ASHEVILLE — Clean energy is America’s future, and Western North Carolina is at the forefront. To support these efforts, economic development, government, business and education leaders are coming together to make the region a clean energy cluster.

Called the EvolveEnergy Partnership, the initiative launches Monday, Oct. 17 from 4-6 p.m. at Diana Wortham Theatre in downtown Asheville. The event will include the results of an economic study on the clean energy industry in Western North Carolina.

The event is free and open to the public but registration is required.

Land-of-Sky Regional Council in partnership with AdvantageWest Economic Development Group is leading the 31-county effort. The coalition also includes four other regional councils of government in WNC: the High Country Council of Governments in Boone, Isothermal Planning and Development Commission in Rutherfordton, the Southwestern Commission in Sylva and Western Piedmont Council of Governments in Hickory. It also includes the counties of the former Northwest Piedmont Council of Governments in Winston-Salem.

A national consulting firm, AngelouEconomics, researched the clean energy industry in Western North Carolina and worked with project partners in creating a strategy for developing the clean energy cluster.

“The Western North Carolina region offers a unique mix of assets that, if properly applied, can support a highly competitive environment for clean energy businesses and enhanced economic activity,” the report says.

It continues: “Not only does Western North Carolina offer many of the elements critical for the support of the clean energy industry, but that a collection of clean energy industries have already formed in portions of the region.”

Targeting renewable energy, energy efficiency and clean vehicles, the EvolveEnergy Partnership aligns with national priorities related to energy independence and the development of alternative and sustainable energy sources. The Appalachian Regional Commission and the Economic Development Administration, both federal agencies, as well as the North Carolina Rural Center, are supporting the initiative.

The bottom-line objective is jobs, said AdvantageWest CEO Scott Hamilton. “As a region, we can now position ourselves to capitalize on the tremendous growth potential of the emerging economy of clean energy. In doing so, our goal is to create quality jobs for the citizens of Western North Carolina.”

Informal projects from the coalition’s efforts have already created more than 80 jobs. Among short term goals, the EvolveEnergy Partnership will enhance or create 85 jobs through supporting existing clean energy businesses and providing resources for new businesses formation in the region.

The effort is expected to garner $4 million in private and public sector investment.

For more information about EvolveEnergy Partnership, visit www.evolveenergyp.com. To register for the launch event, go here: http://conta.cc/eeplaunch.

Editor’s note: The counties involved in the project are Alexander, Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Buncombe, Burke, Caldwell, Catawba, Cherokee, Clay, Cleveland, Davie, Forsyth, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Stokes, Surry, Swain, Transylvania, Watauga, Wilkes, Yadkin and Yancey.

Documents related to the effort include the EvolveEnergy Partnership’s WNC Clean Energy Cluster Analysis Executive Summary; WNC Clean Energy Cluster Analysis full report; and clean energy project fact sheet with details about funding, economic impact community partners, the leadership team and more.

Kathleen O'Nan

Kathleen O'Nan is a contributing reporter to Carolina Public Press.

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