Ashe County, the High Country county seeming to suffer most economically in the aftermath of the Great Recession, got a great boost yesterday with the announcement that one of the county’s largest manufacturing facilities will not go vacant as Gates Inc. closes out their operation. Yesterday, American Emergency Vehicles President/CEO, Mark Van Arnam, announced that  AEV announced that the company  has acquired the Gates facility in Jefferson, and will move their operations there, “The Gates building is almost double the size of our current facility and give us an excellent platform for future expansion and growth.  This is a significant commitment to Ashe County and the AEV team members.” Van Arnam said that Gates will continue to occupy the facility until they have terminated all local activities by the end of the year, then AEV will begin to make the move.  He said AEV is currently developing plans for an extensive building renovation and reconfiguration process which they hope to commence in 2015. It is a huge step for a company that started small, according to Van Arnam, “I started the company in 1991, and we were small, had a handfull of folks, and today we have the largest domestic market share of any ambulance manufacturer in the country—we build one of every 4 1/2 vehicles in the country in our plant with 363 employees.”  and now, AEV is the largest employer in Ashe County, “We are the largest employer in the county, with the exception of the school board, but we’re the largest commercial employer.  It’s a great place for us to be and we’re glad to be there.”