Community Awarded $1.1M Golden Leaf Foundation Grant: SylvanSport to Anchor New Industrial Building

The Transylvania Economic Alliance (Alliance) in partnership with the City of Brevard, Transylvania County and Transylvania County Schools is pleased to announce a community-wide collaboration resulting in the award of a $1.1M Golden Leaf Foundation grant. Grant funding will be used to implement a project that includes $100,000 for enhanced Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) instruction at the high school level, and $1M to construct a 50,000 square foot light industrial, multi-tenant building on Ecusta Road.  Upon completion, the industrial building will be anchored by outdoor gear manufacturer SylvanSport, whose exponential growth is on pace to exceed the capacity of their current manufacturing facility in Brevard, NC.

The $1M Golden Leaf Foundation support will be leveraged by the contribution of a six-acre site owned by the City of Brevard coupled with funding support from Transylvania County to construct the building. When completed, approximately 30,000 square feet of the facility will be immediately leased to SylvanSport, an existing company who projects future business and job growth. The remaining square footage will be available to other light industrial businesses. Lease revenues from the project will be used to recoup the initial investment with a percentage of returns directed towards a reinvestment fund that will be applied toward future sites and building initiatives.

The majority of the remaining $100,000 will be utilized to purchase state-of-the-art equipment for technology, engineering and design courses offered through Transylvania County Schools.  Classroom instruction will utilize LEGO pre-engineer kits specifically tailored to help teach concepts related to robotics, computer programming, industrial design and other related career fields. 

“These innovative course offerings further demonstrate our school system’s commitment to connect classroom instruction with real-world applications that translate to high-wage, high-skill careers.” said Jeff McDaris, Superintendent of Transylvania County Schools. 

According to Chairman Mark Tooley of the Transylvania Economic Alliance, “An enormous amount of work has gone into this project from many different organizations, including staff from Transylvania County, the City of Brevard, Transylvania County Schools, Blue Ridge Community College and various volunteer board members and economic development allies. We are pleased by the community collaboration that led to this award, and thankful to our elected officials for being in a position to move forward with a tangible project. We are especially grateful to the leadership at SylvanSport – for their passion and desire to grow in Transylvania County. Their willingness to be part of this unique grant proposal allowed the community to demonstrate short- and long-term job creation, a critical component of our grant request.”   

“On behalf of the SylvanSport team I would like to express my gratitude to the community leadership for everything they have done to get this project off the ground. Our growing company looks forward to a long-term future in Transylvania County,” said Tom Dempsey, Founder and President of SylvanSport.

Transylvania County Commission Chairman Mike Hawkins said, “We are extremely thankful to the Golden Leaf Foundation for their investment in rural economic development. Without their support, this project would not be possible. This opportunity represents collaboration in the best sense featuring involvement from multiple partners to address workforce development and economic development issues. I want to especially note the work of County Manager Jaime Laughter, Director of Community Development Mark Burrows, and Transylvania Economic Alliance Executive Director Josh Hallingse for their hard work in putting the components of this project together.” 

Mayor Jimmy Harris echoed support for the project, stating, “The City of Brevard is pleased to be part of this project and for the opportunity to work collaboratively towards a strategy that will leverage an underutilized city property and existing public utilities to create quality jobs.”

A lack of available industrial sites and buildings in Transylvania County has been identified in recent years as an obstacle towards recruitment and retention of business. As a result, the Alliance has focused on creating short- and long-term sites and buildings strategies.

Development of this project began in 2015 in response to calls for proposals from the Golden Leaf Foundation. The competitive grant process encouraged counties in Western North Carolina to develop projects capable of promoting economic development, workforce development and/or infrastructure enhancements. Utilizing a comprehensive site identification assessment, community stakeholders identified a publicly owned piece of property on Ecusta Road as a top development priority. The property’s size, access to water, sewer, natural gas, electric and telecommunication services were critical factors in its ranking as a top short-term priority.

The Transylvania Economic Alliance is a 501(c)(3) organization that works to lead responsible economic development through engaging the private and public sectors to develop community assets that are needed to maximize opportunities for investment and quality job creation. For more information on the Alliance please visit or contact Executive Director Josh Hallingse at 828-393-4130. To learn more about the Golden Leaf Foundation please visit 

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