By Carrie Henderson
How does a liberal arts university help a region work on economic development? By listening to critical needs, building off what its strengths are and committing to long-term partnerships. In the Asheville area, that’s what UNCA is doing. The UNC Asheville-City of Asheville Collaborative creates partnerships aimed at capacity building, addressing critical needs and boosting economic activity across areas of mutual interest.
UNC Asheville faculty, staff and students are using interdisciplinary approaches and working alongside City staff in five collaboration domains, including:
Two exciting examples of projects underway include the Renaissance Computing Institute that will seek to get technologies off research campuses and into the hands of North Carolinians, and the establishment of a Regional Sports Commission that will target competitive and recreational opportunities in Asheville.
UNC Asheville was awarded a Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI) engagement site after a series of hurricanes came through the region in 2004 and caused mass flooding. The idea, according to Jim Fox, Director of RENCI at UNC Asheville, was that the center could “use technologies and help community members make better decisions in the wake of major natural disasters.”
The RENCI site was designed to provide decision-making support tools on how to handle future problems in the region. One of the first projects at UNC Asheville will be to develop current 3-D visualization tools for disaster planning, response, and mitigation in Western NC. Upon completion, city and county planners, emergency responders, educators, meteorologists and others will have access to the models. RENCI demonstrates the effectiveness of collaboration under the environment, climate, and technology domain.
The Regional Sport Commission, under the culture and recreation domain, seeks to bring more sporting events to the community, like women’s basketball, baseball and volleyball championships. The Commission is comprised of several representatives from NC, including venue operators, county commissioners, members of the chamber of commerce and the local soccer association, and Biltmore Farms.
Ron Storto, Vice President of Hospitality with Biltmore Farms, a community development organization in Asheville, sees the potential for the commission to create positive change in the community: “We hope the Regional Sports Commission, will the support and guidance from UNC Asheville, will bring interesting and intriguing sporting events to Western North Carolina and give people reasons more to live here.”
UNC Asheville Athletic Director, Janet Cone, believes the goals of the UNC Asheville-City of Asheville Collaborative aligns with UNC Tomorrow by enhancing the economic competitiveness of North Carolina’s regions: “We have seen a lot of support from top-level administrators, including Chancellor Anne Ponder and President Erskine Bowles, and community leaders, including Mayor Terry Bellamy. The support of our leadership is just one of the motivating factors that makes projects like this successful.”
For further information, please contact:
Associate Provost and Dean of University Programs