Alumnus Works to Promote Local Businesses
James Carter’s mother jokingly says that her son gets paid to “eat, drink and talk to people.” That’s true, but there’s a bit more than that involved in this UNC Asheville alumnus’ job.
Carter, who graduated in 2000, is director of membership sales at the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, so his days are filled with meetings, ribbon-cutting ceremonies and special events, most which involve chatting with local business owners over food and drink. He’s good at it: since taking over the job in 2004, Carter has helped increase the Chamber’s membership by 10 percent. The Asheville Chamber ranks third in the state for membership, just behind Charlotte and Raleigh.
The Asheville Chamber, a non-profit organization founded in 1898, promotes the city and helps local businesses flourish by encouraging and supporting economic and workforce development and tourism. The fourth focus is on member services, which is Carter’s area. It’s important work, especially in challenging economic times.
But Carter didn’t study business at UNC Asheville; he was a history major. He credits this liberal arts background for preparing him for the workplace. He’s confident it helped him become a well-rounded individual that can converse confidently with a wide range of people—something he needs to do in his job every day.
“My education at the university was an encompassing thing,” Carter said, citing not only his history classes but courses in sociology and humanities, as well as leadership roles in clubs and a fraternity, for helping him become a business success.
Carter’s career at UNC Asheville also had some unexpected twists and turns. He began as a freshman in 1991 but needed to take some time off for work and family. He returned to finish his degree in 2000 and has remained devoted to his alma mater ever since.
In addition to regularly attending athletic events and concerts, Carter has served as division commander for UNC Asheville’s chapter of Sigma Nu and as a member of the National Alumni Council (a highlight was speaking at the university’s first December commencement, which he called “very cool and a great honor.”). Carter also partners with the Alumni Office and the Career Center on the annual “How to Get a Job in Asheville” program for graduating seniors, which is held at the Chamber. Currently, Carter is chair of the Alumni Council.
Most of all, Carter is a champion for the university. “It is one of the best universities in the country, in my estimation, and definitely in the state,” he said. “I try to tell our story and give back as much as I can.”