Dillsboro - Homegrown Tools

Dillsboro, NC

Updated: 2018

Dillsboro turned an environmental pollutant into an economic asset by converting landfill methane gas into energy to power local artists’ studios at the Jackson County Green Energy Park. The results include new businesses and jobs for the community.

Median Household Income2020$48,000
Poverty Rate 202011.2%
Proximity to Urban Center 180 miles to Charlotte, N.C.
Proximity to Interstate Highway 30 miles
Case Study Time Frame 1998-2007
Municipal Budget FY2020272,812
Data Source: US Census, American Community Survey
View Complete Case StudyUpdated: Dillsboro, 2018

Located in the rural community of Dillsboro, the Jackson County Green Energy Park is using methane gas from a nearby landfill to power the studios of local artisans and small business entrepreneurs. Faced with migrating methane gas from the landfill, town and county officials decided to go beyond complying with environmental regulations by harnessing the gas to power small businesses. Since opening in 2006, the park has become home to a biodiesel refinery, three professional blacksmith studios and a series of greenhouse businesses. When completed, the park will create 20 to 25 jobs and provide opportunities for artisans and small business entrepreneurs to hone their skills at minimal cost.


What are the lessons learned from this story?


When facing a challenge, look for a similarly situated community to serve as a mentor. Jackson County was not the first county to face an issue with methane gas migrating from its landfill. Rather than reinventing the wheel, Jackson’s officials looked outside their community for help and guidance. Not more than 100 miles away, they found that Yancey County had solved a similar methane gas problem by turning the methane into an energy source for a business park. This example sparked the initial idea for Jackson County’s park and also gave officials insight into the difficulties Yancey County had to overcome. Jackson County was about to avoid pitfalls and build upon, reshape and improve the example provided by Yancey County.


Use environmental concerns as levers for economic development strategies. Typically, environmental regulations are perceived as burdens on a town budget. In this case, the town looked beyond the regulation to see how it might comply while also creating jobs and raising incomes. Further, in creating the Green Energy Park, officials spent about the same amount of money as they would have to merely comply with environmental regulations. In the process, Jackson County and Dillsboro linked their solution to the community’s heritage tourism strategy.