N.C. Rural Center moves forward
RALEIGH -- After several months of negotiations, the N.C. Rural Center and the State of North Carolina have reached an agreement that secures the future of the center and ensures the continuation of impactful grant programs.
The Rural Center will move forward with more than $7 million in available assets. As it shifts away from grantmaking, the center will continue its focus on a number of core programs that create economic opportunities throughout rural North Carolina. These efforts will include initiatives designed to assist entrepreneurs and small businesses, increase lending to small businesses and develop rural leaders.
"We have partnered with rural North Carolina communities and people for 27 years," said Patrick Woodie, acting president of the Rural Center. "Now we turn our full attention to building a rural economic development organization that is ready to take on the challenges of the next 27 years."
As part of the settlement, the Rural Center has transferred all grants funded with state appropriations from the center to the N.C. Department of Commerce. The center transferred approximately $98 million to the state, including $72 million previously obligated for grant projects. The Rural Development Division of the state Department of Commerce will manage those grants.
"Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker and her staff fostered a collegial and cooperative atmosphere throughout the negotiations and we can't thank them enough," Woodie said. "We appreciate that the best interests of rural North Carolina were always at the center of our discussions."
The Rural Center that emerged from the negotiations is a focused, nimble, and responsive organization, and one that will continue to advocate for a stronger rural North Carolina, just as it has since its founding.
Over the next six months, the Rural Center Board of Directors, working with center leadership, will evaluate the center's structure, programs and governance. Opportunities will be made available for those interested in contributing to this dialogue, as the center enters its next phase of serving rural North Carolina.
There is plenty of work to be done. Since 2009, rural North Carolina has suffered a 1.7 percent decline in employment, while job growth in the state's metro areas reached 5.3 percent.
Today, more than 1.7 million rural residents — nearly two of every five — live in poverty or teeter on the edge.
"The Rural Center is dedicated to making sure that rural North Carolina is not left behind," Woodie said. "Our mission remains as large an undertaking as it has ever been."