About Ashe County
Ashe County comprises approximately 427.05 square miles of land area. Mean temperatures reach 32 degrees F in January and 69 degrees F in July. Resting high in the Blue Ridge Mountains at 2,900 feet above sea level, the annual rainfall measures around 48 inches. The 2000 census shows the population to be 24,384, resulting in a 10.2 percent growth over the past ten years. When population and land area are examined together, the County’s population density is 58.22 people per square mile.
Feeding off of its strong heritage and unity, Ashe County is growing to meet the demands of a more modern economy by providing a wide range of balanced, stable employment. Residential growth in the County is rising as the value of our aesthetic beauty and recreational possibilities appeal to a widening band of people from around the globe. An increase in the importance of the construction sector of the workforce (ten percent of labor force) is evidence of this trend. Growing commensurate to the construction market, service and retail opportunities, accounting for 15 and 17 percent of the workforce respectively show a shift towards a more visitor-friendly Ashe County for the future. A strong local government presence, totaling 13 percent of County workers, provides quality services and administration for all citizens, while a diverse manufacturing field contributes an impressive 35 percent of local jobs. Although Ashe County’s history is steeped in farming, agriculture currently accounts for only 2.4 percent of the active workforce. The influences and characteristics of a traditional community remain, however, ingrained in the values and work ethic of the citizens, and the truly “hometown” feel of the community.
While struggling with many growth-related issues common to more rural areas, Ashe County continues to improve in many fields, including education. At a steady rate, levels of high school enrollment and graduation increase locally, as do the statistics of those enrolling and completing collegiate careers. Local policy makers continue to allocate resources to insuring the highest quality education possible, building cutting edge school facilities for all ages of students, in order to offer the very best curriculum and social development for the County’s future leaders. As recent as 1999, a new consolidated high school began operation, offering myriad possibilities for scholastic and extracurricular activities as well, including increased internet accessibility and technological capacity. Groundwork is also being conducted at this time for a new, multi-million dollar elementary school to be completed around 2004. The recognition of the importance of early education, and a spirit of cooperation with the Ashe Campus of the Wilkes Community College and nearby Appalachian State University are constantly bettering the opportunities and assets of Ashe residents.
As a result of such labors and intensive efforts at improvement, the economic conditions within the County steadily improve. Current median family income is $35,000. Even with recent increases, the local tax rate is only $0.40 on the hundred, showing an incredible commitment to keep taxation reasonable, while providing the very best services possible.
The ability to communicate and exchange information at high speeds is of extreme value in today’s fast-paced marketplace. In order to remain current and on the leading edge of information accessibility, Ashe County is partnering with the NC Rural Center and the Rural Internet Access Authority, in order to further our network of broadband Internet access. The RIAA is working to provide affordable access to even the most remote areas in North Carolina and is proving to be an invaluable asset to Ashe’s expansion and preparation for more high-tech industry. Fiber optic cable and increased telecommunications coverage are also among the elements of information infrastructure, which are being installed to better connect Ashe County to other growing areas.
Businesses of all sizes and nature reside in Ashe County, and make use of the favorable environment to prosper. Ashe is home to retail and service establishments ranging from two or three employees, as well as manufacturing firms employing as many as 600. Recent businesses to locate in Ashe are Wal Mart Super Center, Oldham Saw Company and Tigra USA, a cutting tools manufacturer based in Germany. While many large manufacturers and firms have found a productive home in Ashe County, there is an understanding among the leaders of the community that small business seem to be the heart of Ashe’s economic sector. Local decision makers strive constantly to provide optimum location opportunities, training assistance programs through the local community college, and other viable incentives to establish and maintain a high-quality environment for the location of small businesses. Each employer, whether large or small, depends largely upon the skill and dedication offered by the County’s workers.
Thanks to continuing partnerships with the NC Department of Transportation, access to Ashe County has never been better. Local leaders are continually meeting with DOT officials to prioritize and schedule improvements to the County road network. In addition, the Board of County Commissioners and Airport Advisory Board are currently working to improve the capability and usage of the Ashe County Airport. This facility, under the supervision of the County, is intended to provide access to general aviation flights, both for business and recreational use. Recognizing its potential and importance as a selling point and valuable tool for local businesses, Ashe is currently evaluating an airport expansion project with the NCDOT Division of Aviation, which will provide additional runway length, and corporate hangar spaces. The runway is currently jet-accessible and many pilots currently utilize the recently added Jet A fuel system.
Many related factors combine to provide the County with its unmatched quality of life. For years, tourists have traveled from far and wide to view the seasonal changing of leaves in the autumn, or to canoe the wild and scenic New River; designated as a National Heritage River in 2000, by President Clinton. The surrounding Appalachian Mountains offer numerous hiking and outdoor possibilities, and the federally established Blue Ridge Parkway bisects the County, offering recreational opportunities as well as tourism gateways to Ashe and surrounding areas. Other recreational areas include Mt. Jefferson State Park, New River State Parks, and the parks and recreation facilities offered through Ashe County Parks programs. Local resort communities include Mountain Aire golf course and the beautiful Jefferson Landing on the New River; both offering wonderful golfing, housing and recreational opportunities.
Municipalities within Ashe County are local centers of residential and commercial growth. Major infrastructure improvements are underway in all towns and many active annexation projects are expanding accessible water and sewer lines into unincorporated areas of the County. Such aggressive growth and preparation are providing for the orderly provision of services through many high-density areas, while County/town partnerships are addressing corridor issues and the effective preservation of Ashe’s numerous assets.
Ashe County is a beautiful, safe, productive place to live, work and play. Outstanding quality of life and increasing levels of services and opportunities are sure to aid Ashe County in being on of America’s best places to live. For those seeking a relaxing place to call home for retirement, for parents searching for a place to raise a family, or for a business needing a prosperous area to base corporate operations, Ashe provides innumerable opportunities, and welcomes newcomers with a hearty handshake and a smile.