Spruce Pine - Homegrown Tools

Spruce Pine, NC

Updated: 2022

Spruce Pine is at the center of western North Carolina’s craft and culture economy. By producing and marketing products from a children’s story, it is redefining economic development for others.

Median Household Income2020$45,435
Poverty Rate 202022.8%
Proximity to Urban Center 50 miles to Asheville, N.C.
Proximity to Interstate Highway 25 miles
Case Study Time Frame 2003-2007
Municipal Budget 2021-20222.6 million
Data Source: US Census, American Community Survey
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Spruce Pine is building its economy through entrepreneurship, with a twist. The town is using a catalog of local products and creative marketing techniques to build a craft industry inspired by a children’s book. The Home of the Perfect Christmas Tree project relies on harnessing local assets to create jobs for local residents – jobs that by definition cannot be out-sourced. “This is our version of economic development based on the resources that we have here,” said Shirley Hise, director of the Mitch- ell County Chamber of Commerce.


What are the lessons learned from this story?


Innovative partnerships are critical to the success of entrepreneurship strategies. Spruce Pine’s approach to supporting local entrepreneurs requires that the Chamber of Commerce and the craft community work closely together for the first time, to ensure successful marketing and branding. More established local artists help provide skill development and support for newer craft artists. The local community college offers basic business and marketing skills geared to the crafts business. Finally, a group of business people, artists and local volunteers serve on the product review committee to determine product quality standards and select products for sale.


Support for entrepreneurship can have positive multiplier effects in a community. In addition to creating new jobs to meet the demand for products, Spruce Pine’s strategy has a multiplier effect on tourism and commerce, including sales by local artists not affiliated with the Home of the Perfect Christmas Tree project. Shirley Hise noted that when the retail store opened, business in the local café increased by 20 percent and traffic through local artist galleries increased. According to Hise, this exemplifies the project’s “positive impact on the whole community.”