Thursday, May 30, 2024

West: Plaudits for a protester

On Feb. 19, current and former trustees, students and local leaders gathered on the UNC Asheville campus to celebrate the rechristening of New Hall. “Our students believed our buildings’ names were missing diversity,” says Chancellor Mary Grant. “At the same time, our board of trustees was discussing how we should recognize people who have contributed to the university.” When combined, those two factors produced an obvious namesake for the academic building: Alfred Whitesides Jr. “Al serves as a connector between the city and the university,” Grant says. “He’s just a very special guy.”

Whitesides, who grew up in the city during the 1950s, recalls a time when African-Americans weren’t so celebrated. At segregated Stephens-Lee High School, he joined the Asheville Student Committee on Racial Equality, and while attending historically black North Carolina Central University in Durham, Whitesides was arrested multiple times for participating in sit-ins. “My grandfather pushed my brother and I,” he says. “He told us we wouldn’t have to go through what he went through.”

After a stint in the Navy, Whitesides became the first African-American to enter the Asheville management-training program for First Union, where his father work- ed as a janitor. On his first day at the bank, in 1971, Whitesides’ new boss ushered him to a meeting of the Asheville Jaycees. “First Union really pushed us to join civic organizations,” Whitesides says. “To be strong in a community, you had to be active in it.” While he worked his way through the ranks, eventually becoming a vice president, Whitesides served on the board of the United Way of Asheville, was a member of the Asheville City Schools Board of Education, and, in 2001, began an eight-year tenure on the UNC Asheville Board of Trustees. During that span, the university experienced the largest building boom in its 89-year history. Whitesides retired from banking in 2010. He was at Hendersonville-based Mountain 1st Bank & Trust at the time.

In Whitesides Hall, built in 2006, students learn about history, literature and philosophy. Grant hopes the name out front will inspire them to build on Whitesides’ legacy. The chancellor plans to bolster that effort with scholarships for students who otherwise couldn’t afford a college education. Whitesides, 71, wants that, too, but he also hopes his name continues to connect students with the tragedies of the Civil Rights Movement: “A lot of people had to die to get my name on the building. We can’t forget them.”

MILLS RIVER – GF Linamar will create 350 jobs and invest $217 million in a plant that will manufacture components to make cars more fuel-efficient. The company is a joint venture of Switzerland-based GF Automotive and Canada-based Linamar. Linamar has three other plants in the state, including two in Buncombe County and one in Wilson County.

ASHEVILLE – Parsec Financial planned to acquire Tryon-based Millard & Company for an undisclosed amount. Millard was founded in 2010 by Andy Millard, who is running for U.S. Congress in North Carolina’s 10th District. Established here in 1980, Parsec has more than $1.7 billion under management.

LENOIR – Krystal Engineering will invest $20.9 million in a manufacturing plant, creating 82 jobs with an average annual salary of more than $60,000. The Titusville, Fla.-based company makes components for the aerospace, automotive and telecommunications industries.

Dirty Dancing is making its return to North Carolina. ABC greenlit a three-hour musical remake of the 1987 romantic drama starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey as “Baby,” a young woman in the early 1960s who vacations with her affluent family in the Catskill Mountains and falls for the resort’s working-class dance instructor.

North Carolinians, of course, know that the Blue Ridge is the real backdrop with Lake Lure the setting for the famous “lake lift” scene. (Don’t pretend you haven’t watched it a dozen times.)

Lake Lure has capitalized on the fervent fandom with a Dirty Dancing Festival for the last six summers. Now, the remake will employ about 900 extras from North Carolina, according to the N.C. Department of Commerce, which plans to issue $4 million in grants to the production. The N.C. Film Office says Dirty Dancing, an independent feature film called Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, also filming in western N.C., and a new TV series Shots Fired, which will film in Charlotte, are expected to have direct in-state spending of more than $64.5 million while creating about 7,600 jobs.

For 40 years, sharing the stories of North Carolina's dynamic business community.

Related Articles