The Newland Business Association met Tuesday, with Lora Elder, 5th generation Avery County native, speaking about tourism, and announcing a new ‘cycling century’ event. Elder called tourism a topic dear to her family, as her grandfather, Grover Robbins, developed Elk River Club, Linville Land Harbor, Hounds Ear, Land Of Oz park, Ski Beech and Tweetsie Railroad.
His granddaughter, Lora Elder is focused on tourism via sports marketing. She told the gathering that 11 years ago she attended a bike ride in Lake Tahoe and realized its many benefits—a social activity, great exercise and a wonderful way to spend time outdoors. She said cycling is the single most popular sport in the Country and it doesn't involve hurting the environment. She talked about the incredible views, great people, a wonderful climate and gorgeous mountains—just the setting to tap into the huge cycling market. Her research and found that in the Outer Banks cycling produced a 9-1 return on investment! It brings a 60 million dollar annual return. It brings in 680,000 visitors with discretionary income, and she said 87% of cyclists earn over $150,00 a year. There, it created over 1400 jobs. She pointed out that Lance Armstrong made Beech Mountain famous for cycling, leading to a cycling event, "75 Miles For 75 Years," participants coming from 10 states.
This year she is announcing the ‘gold standard’ of cycling events, a century ride that will pass thru Newland. This organized ride is scheduled for Sunday, August 26, the week before Labor Day weekend. Elder said that this will bring 'heads and beds' to our area, and bring them back. "Rock The Blue Ridge,100 miles for 100 years" Bill Close suggested setting up a rest stop in front of the courthouse with Christmas trees displayed and other local traditions that are unique to Newland.
In the more near-term, business owners and a representatives from Mayland College discussing Newland's future in tourism, attracting families, creating jobs and offering education. Programs such as the 1 to 1 program which will put a computer into the hands of every student grade K thru 12th starting next month were discussed—Avery County the 1st county in NC to implement this program. Events on the agenda started with a discussion of the 5th Halloween Extravaganza, Monday night October 31st from 4-7:30 pm. The costume contest begins at 7 at the Heritage Arts Center, with contests for 6 age groups from 2 thru adults with prizes donated by the business community.
At the meeting, Bret Gardella introduced himself to the audience as the recently hired Economic Development Director for Avery County. He is here to promote business and work with Lees McRae College and Mayland to encourage children and make it possible for them to run successful businesses w/out having to go somewhere else for a job. In the few months he has been in his position, he said he appreciates the forward thinking and progressive leadership in Avery County. He spoke in detail about the incubator program ACPRIDE which will utilize the old Banner Elk School and offer reasonable rents and education for start up businesses. He said he is working with local banks to secure loans for upstarts. He emphasizes shopping local and is proud of the events and festivals that take place all year round.