Leave this field empty
By Lauren Davis Gordon
Pin It

On Wednesday, July 27 at 5:30pm over 70 people attended a panel discussion at GreenHill, moderated by City Councilperson Nancy Hoffmann, which tackled the role of the arts in economic resurgence and development as well as the differences, similarities and meaning of “creative economy” in Greensboro and Asheville.

Laura Way, GreenHill’s Executive Director explained, “I wanted to do this program because Asheville has an abundance of creative people who are catalysts for economic activity. Artist started studios, opened shops, and created a critical mass of activity in underutilized areas that drew traffic, tourism and further development. Related to that in Greensboro is this entrepreneurial spirit with a history and strong culture of makers. I thought talking about the evolution of these two cities would be interesting. Lessons learned from Asheville and the unique strengths of Greensboro compared and contrasted.”

Asheville Panelists included Franzi Charen, Founder and Executive Director of Asheville Grown Business Alliance, Rob Pulleyn, a ceramic artist and early supporter of the arts renaissance in Asheville, and Pat Whalen, President of Public Interest Projects, Inc. (PIP), a for-profit development company founded in 1990 by the late Julian Price. Greensboro was represented by panelists Zack Matheny, President and CEO of Downtown Greensboro Incorporated (DGI) an independent, non-profit agency established to stimulate new investment and interest in Greensboro’s Central Business District, Cecelia Thompson, Executive Director of Action Greensboro, an economic development nonprofit focused on improving quality of life in Greensboro, NC and Andy Zimmerman, Co-founder of HQ Greensboro and owner, AZ Development, Velocity Product Development, & Get Outdoors, who has renovated building across downtown Greensboro.

Nancy posed the question, “What can you recommend to elected city officials, business and community leaders to help us make deliberate connections between arts and culture and business, manufacturing, and tourism to improve economic outcomes by capitalizing on local assets?”  Pat Whalen responded, “The secret really is having good conversations with them.” Conversations continued around the importance of electing the right people for our local officials.


Photo credit: Toni Tronu, GreenHill


Asheville panelists explained their growth and becoming a popular destination hasn’t come without a cost. Franzi Charen cautioned the group around becoming too big or commercial, responding to the surge of chain stores, restaurants and hotels now in Asheville. As a local business owner she has seen how the placement of chains can affect the true vibe and charm of a city. Andy Zimmerman, a Greensboro developer, who recently built HQ Greensboro, an entrepreneurial shared office space on Lewis Street in downtown Greensboro was in agreement, “We really need to be intentional about our decisions.”