(828) 898-5605 info@averycounty.com

Press Releases

Avery County Chamber of Commerce President presents a ceremonial fund reimbursement check to President and co-Owner Bill Shillito

Avery County Chamber of Commerce President presents a ceremonial fund reimbursement check to President and co-Owner Bill Shillito (LightLeap by North Carolina Wireless).

The occasion marks a milestone in the ongoing efforts of The Avery County Commissioners, the County Managers Office, and the Chamber of Commerce to expand Broadband capabilities in all parts of Avery County. The primary focus on this effort is the unserved and underserved regions of the county.


This recent milestone includes the expansion of the capabilities of LightLeap by more than doubling our thru put capacity. With this increased infrastructure capacity, we were able to expand deeper into the underserved areas of the County by adding Mini-Pops (points of presence) that allows us to reach additional house-holds stated Mr. Shillito.

The critical element in this expansion of broadband capability in Avery County was the recent release of Appalachian Regional Commission grant.  The funds were made available thru the efforts of The Avery County Manager’s Office, the Avery County Chamber of Commerce, and the High County Council of Governments.

The County Manager released a Request for Proposal (RFP).  The aim of the RFP was to expand Broadband in Avery County, with a focus on unserved areas of the County. LightLeap was chosen as the best respondent to that RFP.  With a solid proposal in hand the County applied for a grant with the help of the NC Dept of Information of Technology representatives to the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC). The ARC approved the grant.

The Grant must be administered thru a Non-profit entity.  The Avery County Chamber offered to fill this critical role. Chamber Executive Director, Melynda Pepple stated that the Chamber continues to be highly motivated to assist this effort and chartered as a Non-profit Organization that strives for the growth and progress of our great county, this was a natural fit for us to foster this grant.

Ms. Pepple turned to the High-Country Council of Governments to assist in the intricate details of managing a complex contract and agreement required by the Grant agreement.  Ms. Pepple stated that the High-Country COG is instrumental in implementing the detailed work required.

The primary aim of the grant is to expand broadband to unserved and underserved regions of Avery County.  The results to date of the grant are a doubling of capacity on the fixed wireless infrastructure in Avery County.  This additional capacity has allowed LightLeap to expand coverage areas with additional Mini-pops in the Jonas Ridge region and further south. With these additions LightLeap now reaches an additional 96 households with non-data capped broadband service. The original goal of the grant was to reach 75 households. The success of the project is directly attributable to the excellent team work among the participants: The Avery County Manager’s Office, the Avery County Chamber or Commerce, the High-Country COG, the NC Department of IT, and private partner LightLeap by NC Wireless.


LightLeap is ably assisted in identifying, installing and servicing new households by Highland Electronics (Radio Shack) in Newland.  The owner Doug Gragg stated that it is exciting to see the additional households covered and that I can now fulfill their internet needs.

LightLeap by NC Wireless is excited to announce a partnership with RiverStreet of Wilkesboro, NC. RiverStreet is an extension of Wilkes Communications. RiverStreet is a leader in providing high-speed broadband to rural areas of NC. The combination of this leadership of fiber provider and the expertise of LightLeap by NCW in the fixed wireless efforts makes a formidable team.  Our goal is to continue to find low-cost methods to grow the broadband reach to all citizens of North Carolina. The partnership allows that to occur and advances time lines to do so stated Greg Coltrain of VP of RiverStreet.

Avery County Receives Grant From Appalachian Regional Commission to Expand Broadband Access

Avery County was awarded a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) to expand broadband in the county and North Carolina Wireless (NCW), LLC. a Fixed Wireless Internet Service Provider (WISP) will provide that service.

The grant request was submitted to the ARC by the Avery County Chamber of Commerce a 501 (c) (3) organization whose Executive Director is Ms. Melynda Pepple, on behalf of the citizens of Avery County.

Ms. Pepple was assisted by the Avery County Manager’s Office and the staff of The High Country Council of Governments in developing the grant request to the ARC. The grant was approved in early 2018. ARC’s mission is to innovate, partner, and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia.

The grant is an award of $100,000 for the purpose of expanding broadband service to unserved and underserved areas for Avery County. The grant was awarded with further consideration of serving low-density and low-income areas of the county. Ms. Pepple and the Avery Broadband Committee received early guidance from the NC Department of IT to assist in identifying the unserved and underserved areas.

After approval of the grant, a competitive process was utilized to select and Internet Service Provider to partner with the Chamber to implement the project. All methods of delivery of broadband services were considered (coax, fiber, and wireless etc).

It was determined that Fixed Wireless was the most cost-effective method and provided the most coverage for the unserved homes in Avery County. “The Broadband Committee determined that NCW with their branded ‘LightLeap’ service offered the most complete and comprehensive plan for delivering the project” stated Ms. Pepple.

NCW President Bill Shillito stated “We are proud and humbled to accept this award of funds; proud that the Avery Broadband Committee recognized the value that we bring to the project and humbled by the fact that the Broadband Committee identified us as offering the best and most effective approach to meet the grant’s aims. We will work hard to fulfill the aims of the grant. We are ably assisted by our local partner Mr. Doug Gragg, owner of Highland Electronics (Radio Shack), who serves as our sales and service team for Avery County. They are located at 520 Pineola St, Newland, NC 28657 and can be reached at (828) 733-5718. Mr. Gragg continues to go above and beyond his role in assisting NCW with identifying the best methods to deploy our unique capability in all parts of Avery County.”

In response to the project goals, documented demand, and existing tower sites, NCW identified several areas of early focus to expand service to. Those areas include the Jonas Ridge/Pineola and the Linville Falls/Altamont areas as best early focus areas. “Now that the grant is awarded, our staff can and will complete the timelines and progress goals toward accomplishing the aims of the grant” stated Mr. Josh Strickland, CTO for NCW. For more information on LightLeap offerings by NCW including pricing, go to www.lightleap.net. You may complete a service form request at the website to assist NCW in determining demand for expansion in Avery County.

Ms. Pepple stated “Many hours of work by a large number of players went into submitting the request to the ARC and selecting an ISP partner. I wish to thank the vision of the Avery County Commissioners and the Manager’s Office for their support toward this effort. I also wish to thank the Appalachian Regional Commission for seeing the need and providing the funding for this project. The High Country Council of Governments staff provided invaluable guidance and support through this entire process. We look forward to working with NCW to expand broadband in Avery County.”

2018 Avery Chamber Golf Classic Winners-Linville Golf Club

May 14, 2018
Linville Golf Club, Linville, NC
On behalf of the Avery Chamber we sincerely
“Thank” everyone who made this event possible!
Host and Event Sponsors:
Pictured (L-R) Keith Crain, Head Professional of Linville Golf Club; Melynda M. Pepple, Executive Director of Avery Chamber of Commerce; Tom Dale, Director of Golf of Linville Golf Club; Scott Wallace, Assistant Professional of Linville Golf Club
Corporate Sponsors:
Pictured (L-R) Todd Elledge, Director of Marketing of Carolina West Wireless; Edward Hinson, Executive Director of Competitive Operations of SkyLine/ SkyBest
1st Place Winners
1st Place “GROSS” Winner
(L-R) Jason Eldreth, Carter Dishman, Roscoe Millsaps, John Malone
1st Place “NET Winner
(L-R) Scott Boyles, Jeff Craver, Neil Cornatzer, Mark Hollingsworth -Not Pictured
2018 Golf Classic Results

Avery County Chamber of Commerce Desires to Engage Internet Service Providers for Broadband Expansion

The Avery County Chamber of Commerce has received a grant in the amount of $100,000 from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) to extend broadband internet service to residential and business customers in unserved and underserved areas of Avery County.

The Chamber is looking for a qualified Partner with the technical expertise and capacity to make available high-speed internet services to as many underserved areas as possible.  The qualified Partner would be required to design, build, operate and maintain a broadband network to provide data services.  The Partner would also be required to provide a minimum of $100,000 to match the ARC funds

Copies of the detailed request for proposal (RFP), including a description of the services to be provided by respondents, the minimum content of responses, and the factors to be used to evaluate the responses, can be obtained by contacting Melynda Pepple, Director, Avery County Chamber of Commerce, 4501 Tynecastle Highway, Unit #2, Banner Elk, NC 28604 or (828) 898-5605 or director@averycounty.com or visit www.averycounty.com/avery-county-press-releases/.

Proposals will be accepted until 5:00 pm March 30, 2018.

The Avery County Chamber of Commerce encourages the submission of proposals from minority- and women-owned firms.

Avery Chamber – RFP


Leadership Avery Kicks Off 2018

Avery Chamber Now Taking Applications for 2018 Class of Leadership Avery

Who runs Avery County?  Who are our leaders—our movers and shakers?  What local businesses and organizations are integral to the fabric of everyday life and how do they operate?  What resources are available to our citizens?  Interested in learning just how Avery County works and being more involved with the county’s current and future leadership?  Here is your chance!

This week the Avery Chamber of Commerce announced its third offering of Leadership Avery, a ten-month program developed by Avery County leaders to enlighten participants about county businesses, agencies, organizations, and resources and how they work, both individually and together, to run our county.

The 3rd year class will kick off in March with a class orientation.  The sessions will focus on: Education, Nonprofits, Resorts and Tourism, Healthcare, Law, Courts, Government, Media, Small Business/Entrepreneurship, Tree Farms, Local Industry and  Wineries/Breweries. The class will wrap up in November with each participant graduating, receiving certification, and enjoying dinner.  Participants will walk away with a vastly expanded view of just how Avery County works, excellent knowledge of who to go to for what, and resources to add their own contributions to leadership in our county.

The 2018 class of Leadership Avery will be led by co-chairs YMCA Membership & Marketing Director DeLee Scott and Mountain Glenn Golf Marketing Director, Kathy Rimmer. Both Scott and Rimmer are graduates of the 2017 Leadership Avery class and will bring with them their individual experiences and knowledge gained.

YMCA CEO, 2016 inaugural class participant and past 2017 chair Trey Oakley states, “Leadership Avery not only opened my eyes to how much goes on in our small community, but also introduced me to the people who are behind the majority of it.  The type of person that will benefit from Leadership Avery is someone who wants to give back, who wants to be a catalyst for change, and who wants to ensure a brighter future for all in Avery County.  I was blessed to be surrounded with individuals concerned with our community and I look forward to growing our alumni base to become a driving force in Avery County’s future.”

Participants must commit to one full day a month in the 9-month program and can miss only one scheduled session. Also, the business they represent must be a member of the Avery County Chamber of Commerce. The cost is $300 and, if the participant is an employee of an area business, in most cases the employer will sponsor or pay the tuition for the participant.


Apply Today!


For more information contact Avery County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director:

Melynda Pepple, 828-898-5605, director@averycounty.com.

Applications are due February 28, 2018.

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