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Growth of Mid-size Businesses Seen as Key to Growing Economy

March 19, 2012

ASHEVILLE, N.C. - Mountain BizWorks, Asheville, has helped cultivate the innovation of start-up businesses for 21 years, but this year the nonprofit is expanding its focus to include mid-size business support, in the forms of loans and training. CEO Shaw Canale explains why.

"We want to be an important part, a meaningful part, in helping communities and families have a permanent foothold in the middle class."

Mountain BizWorks has increased its lending by 35 percent in the last year, loaning $1 million to entrepreneurs in 2011. Seventy-five percent of the funding is federal money, and they also get public support at the local level. However, Canale says, they have seen some erosion in funding due to the trickle-down of state budget cuts.

Building businesses creates opportunities to grow the middle class in areas of the state struggling with poverty, Canale says.

"We're really targeting those kinds of businesses that are going to create the permanent, family-wage jobs that can offer benefits. That's what's going to revive a middle-class economy."

All but two of the 12 counties Mountain BizWorks serves have unemployment rates higher than the national average and poverty rates above the state average.

Reporting for this story by North Carolina News Connection in association with Media in the Public Interest. Media in the Public Interest is funded in part by Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.

Stephanie Carson/Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC