Cashiers, NC/High Hampton Resort – Representatives from western North Carolina state and local government and Western Carolina University and Southwestern Community College met Thursday with Cashiers Area business leaders during a workforce development summit sponsored by the Cashiers Area Chamber and Jackson County Tourism Development Authority.
With a focus on the tourism industry, which generates nearly $190 million annually to the county’s economy, the twenty four participants discussed the complex issue and how to improve recruitment, housing, training and retention of qualified seasonal and year-round employees.
Attendees were welcomed by Stephanie Edwards, Executive Director of the Cashiers Area Chamber, and Tom Garcia, General Manager of High Hampton Resort, where the meeting was held. JCTDA Director Nick Breedlove facilitated a panel of tourism business representatives including Sydneye Trudics, of High Hampton Resort, Sarah Jennings of Lonesome Valley/Canyon Kitchen and Mary Lanning, of Hampton Inn & Suites Cashiers/Sapphire.
“We believe that things get accomplished through synergistic partnerships and innovative thought, so we’ve assembled your talent, expertise and experience today to help the Cashiers Area tourism industry and our community at large,” Edwards said.
Topics of concern included available and affordable housing, the size of the local labor pool, needed job skills, industry career opportunities and generational interests and expectations. Resources discussed included programming through NC Works/North Carolina Department of Commerce, WCU and SWCC student services, Appalachian Regional Commission, Southwestern Commission Region A, Land of Sky Regional Council and Jackson County.
Edwards noted the Chamber represents more than 400 members and has identified workforce development as a priority strategic initiative because it is critical to the area’s economic sustainability and tourism industry success. High Hampton Resort’s expansion to 12-month operations and the recently-funded Horsepasture Wastewater Treatment Project will both be catalysts for a “seismic shift” in the Plateau’s development potential she explained. “Now, accommodations, restaurants, retailers and other businesses, whose growth has been stymied in the past can launch or expand, creating year-round jobs and enhancing the visitor experience,” she said.
The Chamber currently sponsors an online jobs board (CashiersAreaJobs.com) and annual job fair (to be held 10 to noon on April 14, 2018 at the Albert Carlton Cashiers Community Library) and keeps the workforce dialogue front and center among stakeholders to connect need with resources.
“We’ve been talking about these issues in our own organizations for some time. The Workforce Summit brought everyone to the same table and we saw a lot of great conversation and trading of ideas with an open, collaborative spirit. It brought a greater clarity to the challenges we face and placed them front and center to our resource providers present –education, workforce development, regional planning groups, county government and the state employment office,” said Breedlove. “With an understanding of the challenges, it’s my hope that the awareness and dialogue we started opens the door to solutions,” he concluded.