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The top industries and employers in the Asheville metro area

Learn about the biggest industries and employers in the Asheville metro area with this guide to local business.


Asheville’s major employers dominate industries from healthcare to hospitality.

Table of Contents

More than 200,000 people (and thousands of businesses) contribute to the Asheville metro area’s $24 billion economy. But have you ever wondered about the Land of Sky’s heaviest hitters?

Consider this Asheville Business 101 — your guide to our region’s six key industries and seven major employers.

Note: When we say Asheville metro area, that refers to Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson, and Madison counties.

GE Aviation

Asheville’s GE Aviation plant produces revolutionary technology for jet engines.

Photo courtesy of GE Aviation

The key industries

There are six key industries that represent ~80% of the Asheville metro area’s economy, based on November 2023 data from Riverbird Research. We’ve listed them in order of employment numbers.

Education and Health Services | 19% or 37,800 employees

The Buncombe County Board of Education, Veterans Administration Medical Center, A-B Tech, UNC Asheville, and Mission Health take the lion’s share of this sector’s employment. See a closer snapshot of the healthcare industry and education programs.

Leisure and Hospitality | 15% with 31,100 employees

The estimated 12.5 million people who visit the area each year — and their ~$2.88 billion in spending — have played a major role in this sector’s growth over the last decade. The Biltmore and Omni Hotels are the largest employers, followed by 1,900+ other hotels, restaurants, and small businesses. See more on the economic impact of tourism.

Government | 14% with 27,200 employees

When you account for the federal, state, and local employees across all four counties in the metro area, plus all the government employees within each city, it adds up to a lot. The largest public administration employer is Buncombe County, which employs ~1,600 people for everything from park maintenance to tax assessment.

Exterior of the Omni Grove Park Inn

Omni Hotels is one of the area’s top employers in Leisure & Hospitality.

Photo by AVLtoday

Retail Trade | 13% with 26,700 employees

Ingles, Walmart, and Lowe’s are the largest retailers in the region — but there’s a sizable chunk of 2,500+ mid-sized and small businesses that also contribute as a major part of the puzzle.

Manufacturing | 11% with 22,300 employees

Eaton Corporation, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Unison Engine Components, Jabil Circuit Inc., and Borgwarner Turbo Systems are some of the largest manufacturing companies in Buncombe County — and we also house more than 300 other cutting-edge, advanced manufacturers such as GE Aviation. Another big name: New Belgium Brewing Company, one of the largest craft brewers in the country.

Professional and Business Services | 11% with 21,600 employees

Everything from accounting and law firms to banks and marketing agencies fall under this umbrella — with larger employers including Talent Force Employment Staffing, Guthy-Renker Fulfillment Services LLC, Yu Ken Cut It Inc., and Republic Services, according to the most recently released Asheville Chamber data.

The major players

Now that we’ve established the major industries, we bet you’re curious about specific names. Whether you’re job hunting (or just “casually prospecting”), here are seven major employers — all that employ more than 1,000 workers on average.

Mission Health | 10,500+ employees | Health Care and Social Assistance | Search jobs

Mission Health, the state’s sixth largest health system, was acquired by HCA Healthcare in 2019 and is now part of the HCA North Carolina Division. It currently operates seven hospitals, as well as multiple outpatient and surgery centers.

Ingles Markets, Inc. | 1,000+ employees | Retail Trade | Search jobs

Ingles supermarket is Asheville born-and-bred. After opening its first shop on Hendersonville Road back in 1963, the business has since expanded across six southeastern states and rakes in annual sales of almost $4 billion. The company’s headquarters is in Black Mountain.

Buncombe County Board of Education | ~3,800 employees | Educational Services | Search jobs

From substitute teachers and bus drivers to administrative positions, there are plenty of careers that support the 24,000+ students in this district.

Veterans Administration | 1,000+ employees | Health Care and Social Assistance | Search jobs

The VA Asheville Healthcare System is part of the nation’s largest healthcare team. The medical center provides a wide range of services for veterans, including traditional hospital-based services such as surgery, critical care, mental health, orthopedics, pharmacy, radiology, and physical therapy.

The Buncombe County and City of Asheville administrative buildings, seen from Pack Square Park. The park is covered in light dusting of snow.

Buncombe County and the City of Asheville employ more than 2,700 people between them.

Photo by AVLtoday

Biltmore Workforce Management Inc. | 2,400 employees | Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation | Search jobs

It should come as no surprise that the largest private estate in the US is also a prolific employer. The Biltmore offers a high volume of positions related to hospitality, agriculture, retail, and horticulture — plus, opportunities in engineering and other professional services.

Buncombe County | ~1,600 employees | Public Administration | Search jobs

Formed in 1791, Buncombe County is the largest public administration in the region and serves an estimated 270,000+ residents, according to the US Census Bureau.

City of Asheville | 1,100 employees | Public Administration | Search jobs

Established in 1792, the City of Asheville (which was originally named Morristown) now tends to a population of 93,000+ residents. The city facilitates major initiatives like urban planning, parks and recreation, and tax assessments — plus it oversees the police department. You can also join the team in a more temporary capacity as a ticket salesperson or summer recreation support staff.

This information is derived from the most recent data published by the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce.

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