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Stories of Success

Flight Quest Farm caters to horses and riders

When Sue Gasperson moved to Polk County from Asheville, she found a wonderful horse community that collaborates and welcomes all kinds of riding disciplines. A horse trainer certified in centered riding, she says other trainers send students to her for specific issues, and that the vast riding community here works together well.

Polk County has a long history of horse dating from the 1920s in part due to the thermal belt that provides a temperate climate. Tryon Riding and Hunt Club began fox hunting in 1925 and the Blockhouse Steeplechase is held here each year. When the US Olympic trials wintered in the area in the 1950s, an equestrian community was established in earnest. Read More >

 

Green Creek makes fine wine

Alvin Pack, owner of Green Creek Winery, had a decidedly different idea a few years ago. He created a red Chardonnay wine; the result garnered praise in wine magazines worldwide. “I wanted to come up with something unique, so we abstracted the color only from some red grapes and fermented that with Chardonnay,” said Alvin. “It was a hit—we were covered in international wine magazines and on the Today Show.”

Alvin continues to make the unusual wine—this is the fifth year—and it sells out quickly. “That’s the biggest challenge for us. We have only so much of one product, and when it’s gone, that’s it.” Read More >

 

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Polk Business Climate

Polk County has many different industries, but it is primarily an agri-based culture. The equine business is huge; there is one horse for every three people in the county. More than 500 equestrian businesses include trainers, boarding, breeding, sales, veterinarians, tack stores, and many special shows. The equine business brings other industry to the area, including construction and forest products.

Other major employers include St. Luke’s Heath System, the school system, the wine industry, farming operations including beef cattle, alpacas, and buffalo, a thriving arts community, and a handful of manufacturers. Retirement and continuing care also have economic impact.

I26 and Highway 74 traverse the county, allowing easy access for shipping and travel. Spartanburg, Charlotte, and Asheville are nearby.

A high speed data network is in place, and several high-tech companies make their home here.

 

Resources for entrepreneurs

The Office of Economic Development partners with the North Carolina Department of Commerce and Isothermal Community College to offer training programs to new businesses locating in the county.

The Chamber offers networking opportunities after hours and a leadership program over the course of nine months. The Economic Development staff, Chamber members, Travel and Tourism staff, and the business community meet monthly to share ideas.

A valuable resource for agriculture based businesses is the Mill Spring Agricultural Development Center. It provides resources for agricultural development, farmland preservation, education, community service and business development.

New and expanding businesses are eligible for incentive grants; learn more from the Polk County Board of Commissioners.

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A Certified Entrepreneurial Community (CEC®) is an economic development strategy—a program that helps communities (towns, areas, and counties) become entrepreneur ready.  That means the overall business climate, policies, regulations, and opportunities to learn and grow are simple to find and available. It also means there’s a positive, enthusiastic attitude that permeates the culture. One that asks “how can we help you start and succeed at business?” A Certified Entrepreneurial Community is one of economic opportunity for entrepreneurs. Developed by AdvantageWest Economic Development Group, to learn more click here.

Polk Business Climate >

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Maneuvering through the CEC process required the help of the entire EDC board—12 members—and a considerable commitment as the certification took three years. But the team says the effort was well worth it.

Team leaders Ambrose Mills, Chair, EDC, and County Manager Ryan Whitson shouldered many responsibilities. Lynn Sprague, director of Polk County agriculture economic development, Craig Hilton and Libbie Johnson, both EDC members, and, Bob Morgan, vice chair, EDC, also spent countless hours contributing.

“Ambrose Mills truly cares about the citizens of Polk and is excited about the opportunities for the county; his family has been here since revolutionary war so he has deep roots,” said Ryan. “He kept everyone on task. He’s also a great facilitator.”

“Lynn Sprague was very instrumental in our process; he polished our notebook. He’s a can-do guy who has wrought miracles in our agriculture economic development—he was instrumental in opening the Mill Spring agricultural center. He also helped initiate four farmer’s markets, some of them have up to 40 vendors,” explained Ambrose.

Ryan offered this advice to other communities thinking about doing CEC. “Just do it. Small business is the future of the US economy. You must understand how important it is, and you have to have passion and focus to make it through, but the rewards are great.”

Ambrose counsels potential CEC communities to view the process as a long-term plan. “It’s a living document. It gives us the framework to hang projects on—everything we do is directed toward the goals of the CEC plan,” he said.

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