SCW's 2018 Asheville Cost of Living and our "Living Well Wage"

One of SCW's most unique values is the creation of our own "Living Well Wage" standard.

Appalachia Needs Better Wages

SCW is based in Asheville, NC, which has a economic history strained by widespread poverty and lack of opportunity.

The Appalachian Regional Commission has this to say about the region: "Appalachia still does not enjoy the same economic vitality as the rest of the nation. Central Appalachia in particular still battles economic distress, with concentrated areas of high poverty, unemployment, poor health, and severe educational disparities. And recent economic data show that the Region has fared far worse in the current recession than the rest of the nation."

The "Living Well Wage"

We weren't happy with the current living wage models and goals, which we felt were too modest and weren't really livable. So, we made our own standard. We call it the "Living Well Wage."

SCW defines "Living Well Wage" primarily based on the principle that if you work here, you should be able to live within a 30 minute drive without spending more than 33% of your income on housing. A one bedroom apartment outside of the city center in AVL averaged $899 according to a cost of living report updated January 2018. Our lowest paid position pays $35k annually meaning that an individual paying $899 would be spending 30.8% percent of their annual salary on housing.

Employee Home Ownership as a Company Mission

A $35K salary should also make ownership of a home attainable (though it is acknowledged that a single individual would have to have little additional debt and be unusually diligent in order to save a sufficient downpayment), if an individual is willing to live outside of the city (but within 20-30 minute commute). With a 20% downpayment, an individual should qualify for at least a 200K home at this salary. With a smaller downpayment (and therefore PMI), the individual should be able to qualify for a $182K home, provided no other debts and only one income. With a two-income household, with the assumption that both have similar wages, this hypothetical household unit could be able to qualify for a $353K home. Given this scenario, nearly all areas of Asheville would be affordable.

In addition to providing higher than normal wages, SCW also has a partnership with OnTrackWNC to provide free financial counseling for our staff. These classes cover managing and reducing debt, understanding and improving your credit score, applying for and getting approved for a mortgage. In these classes, employees set financial goals, including saving for a home and creating a budget. SCW pays for the classes and employees can earn a cash bonus for completing them.

How Better Wages Translates to Better Customer Service and Technical Support

The security camera industry is currently in a race to the bottom, with production quality and customer support often being sacrificed in pursuit of lower cost products. Most other companies in our field view their service teams as an area to cut costs: outsourcing labor and paying low wages, but this usually means talking with someone who doesn’t know the products.

Even when you don't outsource support, substandard wage equal substandard support. An employee who is stressed out over their own financial issues can't be patient on the phone with customers. An employee without reliable transportation isn't picking up the phone at all.