The Story: Overview

Today, Asheville is a thriving and successful city of well over 70,000 located just off the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Providing easy access to major Western North Carolina travel destinations like the Folk Art Center, the Biltmore Estate and the Blue Ridge Parkway, Asheville is a center of the region's tourism economy. Indeed, Asheville has been a prominent tourist destination since the nineteenth century.

However, with major businesses such as Ingles Markets Incorporated and BorgWarner Turbo & Emissions Systems calling Asheville home, and with flourishing health care and education industries, Asheville doesn't rely solely on tourism for its modern economic strength. According to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2010 American Fact Finder report, industries related to tourism (arts,entertainment, recreation, accommodation and food services) make up 15.5% of Asheville's economy. Other important sectors of the economy include educational services, healthcare and social assistance (24.5%); retail trade (12.1%); manufacturing (9.5%); and professional, scientific, management, administrative and waste management (8.9%). Tourism is an important part of the economy, but by no means is it the only industry that matters.

Despite its multi-faceted economy of today, Asheville has had a turbulent economic past characterized by explosive booms, crushing busts, and long-term malaise in the years after the Great Depression. Over the last century, many factors contributed to Asheville's revival and current economic security.

One of the most visible was the arrival of the Blue Ridge Parkway after the 1930s, a development that its most prominent supporters argued would revive related tourism and hospitality industries, which had boomed in the 1920s and crashed during the Great Depression. But was it the most significant? To what degree did the Blue Ridge Parkway contribute to Asheville's post-Depression recovery?