More than 200,000 people (and thousands of businesses) contribute to the Asheville metro area’s $20 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.
The key industries
There are six key industries that represent ~80% of the Asheville metro area’s economy, based on data from Riverbird Research. We’ve listed them in order of employment numbers.
Education and Health Services | 18% or 36,900 employees
The Buncombe County Board of Education, Veterans Administration, A-B Tech, UNC Asheville, and Mission Health (the latter being ranked one of the Best Health Systems in the US) take the lion’s share of this sector’s employment. See a closer snapshot of the healthcare industry and education programs.
Leisure and Hospitality | 14% with 27,900 employees
The estimated 10 million people who visit the area each year — and their ~$2.6 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 1,400+ other hotels, restaurants, and small businesses. See more on the economic impact of tourism.
Retail Trade | 14% with 26,000 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.
Government | 12% with 25,800 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.
Manufacturing | 11% with 22,400 employees
Eaton Corporation, Kendro Laboratory, Wilsonart, and Borgwarner Turbo Systems are some of the largest manufacturing companies in Buncombe County — and we’re proud to also house more than 300 other cutting-edge, advanced manufacturers such as GE Aviation and Thermo Fisher Scientific. Another big name: New Belgium Brewing Company, the fourth-largest craft brewer in the country.
Professional and Business Services | 11% with 20,900 employees
Everything from accounting and law firms to banks and marketing agencies fall under this umbrella — with larger employers including Mau Workforce Solutions, Lionbridge Global Solutions Inc., Flexcare LLC, and Teletech Services Corporation.
The major players
Now that we’ve established the major industries, we bet you’re curious for 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.
12,000 employees | Health Services | 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 six acute care hospitals, plus one rehab facility — and the company plans to open several new buildings by 2023.
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 located in Black Mountain.
Buncombe County Board of Education
3,700 employees | Educational Services | Search jobs
From substitute teachers and bus drivers to administrative positions, there are plenty of careers that support the 22,000+ students in this district.
1,000+ employees | Health Care and Social Assistance | Search jobs
The VA Asheville Healthcare System is part of the nation’s largest health care 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.
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.
1,600 employees | Public Administration | Search jobs
Formed in 1791, Buncombe County is the largest public administration in the region and serves more than 159,000 residents.
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 90,000+ 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.