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Tourism Jobs Recovery awards announced; 394 businesses receive grants

ASHEVILLE, NC (June 24, 2020) — A $5 million COVID-19 relief grant program established by the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority and administered by Mountain BizWorks will provide the support to reinstate or generate as many as 4,787 jobs. The Buncombe County Tourism Jobs Recovery Fund, created to bolster the local economy as recovery efforts begin, uses revenue from occupancy tax collections designated for tourism product development. The only initiative of its type in the state, the Fund was signed into law by Gov. Roy Cooper on May 4.

Seven weeks later, 394 Buncombe County businesses have begun receiving grants ranging from $2,000 to $50,000 to help them to safely and sustainably reopen, covering expenses such as payroll, supplies, rent, inventory, and more. Unlike other pandemic relief efforts, this is money that does not have to be paid back by already financially overburdened small business owners.

Nearly 450 independent restaurants, retail establishments, arts and entertainment businesses, tours and attractions, entertainment and event venues, theaters, museums, and breweries, wineries, cideries, and distilleries applied for grant funding during the submission period, May 15 – 31, with requests topping $13.5 million. Of those, 421 met eligibility criteria set forth by the legislation, including financial need, equitability, tourism impact, and plans for reopening in ways that will lead to a more resilient and sustainable local economy.

The vast majority of the grants – 356 in total – went to businesses with fewer than 25 employees; 59 of the grants were made to Buncombe businesses outside of the Asheville city limits.

BY THE NUMBERS: Buncombe County Tourism Jobs Recovery Fund

  • $5 million: Buncombe County Tourism Jobs Recovery Fund created by the Buncombe County TDA with occupancy tax revenue dedicated to tourism product development
  • 394: Businesses funded, from a pool of 421 eligible applicants
  • $2,000 to $50,000: Range of awards made, from micro-grants, to full grants to businesses with multiple locations in Buncombe
  • 4,787: Jobs retained, recovered, or created
  • 7: Weeks from fund signed into law by Gov. Roy Cooper until initial disbursements
  • 63: Grants made to Minority Business Enterprises (MBEs)
  • 232: Grants made to Women Business Enterprises (WBEs)
  • 59: Grants made to businesses outside Asheville city limits
  • 3: Number of Mountain BizWorks experts who reviewed each application
  • 20%: Minimum percentage of sales from people who visit, as estimated by applicants

Breakdown of Sectors Funded

  • 124: Restaurants & bars
  • 102: Tours, attractions, outdoor recreation, agri-tourism, arts, and entertainment
  • 84: Retail operations
  • 24: Bakeries, cafes, and dessert-makers
  • 24: Wedding and event businesses
  • 22: Breweries, cideries, wineries and distilleries
  • 14: Spas and wellness businesses

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