Our Region

With expansive natural terrain, rich cultural heritage, a strong public education system and a healthcare system that is the second largest economic sector in the region, it is easy to see why the Mountain West region is one of the most coveted places to live in the United States. Western North Carolina offers not only small rural communities, but larger more metropolitan areas as well. Both offer a diverse economy that is fueled by the rapidly growing population looking to make western North Carolina their home. The Mountain West region has maintained its small town comfort and southern charm as the population has grown over the years, making it the place many are proud to call home.

Technology & Innovation

Unlike many rural regions, the Mountain West region has a strong fiber backbone. This is due in large part to the development of BalsamWest Fiber Net, which emerged from a partnership between two of the region's major employers - the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians and Drake Software in 2003. BalsamWest constructed over 400 miles of underground fiber and it, along with other broadband providers like MCNC and ERC, provide an important connection for essential services and a vital tool for supporting the region's economic development opportunities. The mission of BalsamWest is to bring 21st century communications to Western North Carolina that previously has not been available in rural areas.


From pre-Kindergarten to graduate school, the Mountain West region has a well-developed public education system that reaches the vast needs of those looking to grow in their communities. County schools range from private pre-kindergarten programs to public charter schools at the middle and high school level. The region is served by three community colleges that offer opportunities for degree seeking students as well as a wide variety of continuing education opportunities. Western Carolina University is the region’s comprehensive public university dedicated to partnering with the business community by providing a curriculum relevant to the region’s economy.


Healthcare is the second largest economic sector in the Mountain West region, assuring the needs of individuals, families and employees are always met. Duke Life Point and Mission Health Systems are the region’s main providers for comprehensive healthcare. The region is populated by seven hospitals and/or comprehensive care centers and 20 skilled nursing and assisted living facilities. Access to healthcare is better in the Mountain West region than in any other rural North Carolina region.  For every 10,000 people, the region has 18 physicians, 83 registered nurses, 4 dentists and 9 pharmacists.  These ratios are almost 25% higher than for North Carolina's other seven rural regions.

Healthcare institutions in the Mountain West region:

Outdoor Recreation and Tourism

Traversing the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountain ranges, the Mountain West region contains some of the most beautiful terrain east of the Mississippi.  From hiking to fishing, horseback riding, whitewater sports and more, you won't find a better place to enjoy your favorite outdoor activity than the mountains of Westernmost North Carolina.  Our region is home to four national parks and national forests with innumerable recreational and picnic areas.  The Appalachian Trail and the Bartram Trail provide world-class hiking venues, with countless smaller hiking trails running throughout the region.  Some of the most challenging and beautiful roads continue to thrill motorcycle and sports car enthusiasts, drawing many visitors to our region.  All this affords entrepreneurs and business owners with opportunities to create new businesses to serve those who come to our region to enjoy the mountain outdoor life.  For more information, visit our regional tourism website.

Cultural Heritage

Music, crafts and history all play a key role in the traditions of the Southern Appalachian mountain community, making it a draw for both tourists and new comers to the area. Attractions are centered around the region’s abundant recreational opportunities as well as its artistically rich traditions which work to further enrich the culture of the Mountain West region.

Available Reports