Bertie and Hertford counties are among the 19 rural communities chosen for a new, state-led initiative to help increase planning, implementing and managing economic development programs and opportunities.
The Rural Community Capacity, or RC2, program, is a pilot effort by the North Carolina Commerce Department involving Appalachian State University’s Walker College of Business, the state announced last week.
The first group of participants were welcomed May 24 in Boone.
“As we build on North Carolina’s economic development success, we must make sure that success is shared among both urban and rural communities across our state,” Gov. Roy Cooper said in a statement. “This program will strengthen the ability of local governments in rural communities to secure major economic projects and bolster North Carolina’s economy.”
The RC2 program, part of the Department of Commerce’s broader Rural Transformation Grant program, provides educational programming, technical assistance and guidance to local government staff in rural and distressed communities.
Funding can go to downtowns impacted by the pandemic, removal and remediation of environmental contaminants or hazards from vacant or abandoned properties by the public sector and cleanups of vacant lots.
“Our rural communities can become stronger and more vibrant places to live and work, but to reach that goal we must build up local governments’ capacity to plan and execute proven economic development strategies,” said North Carolina Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders. “This new program, part of Commerce’s efforts to transform rural economies, will equip local governments and their staffs with the education, technical assistance, and implementation grants they need to succeed.”
As part of the RC2 process, communities have access to the Commerce Department’s rural planning team for additional training and technical assistance, including a strategic planning process focused on identifying economic development assets and priorities that are specific to each community.
Communities that complete the RC2 campus curriculum and participate in the rural planning process will then be eligible to apply for Community Implementation Grants offered by the Rural Economic Development Division through the new Rural Transformation Grant Fund.
“Success in economic development takes intentional preparation,” said Assistant Secretary for Rural Development Kenny Flowers. “We know the approaches that work well and lay the groundwork for success, and we’re excited to share these best practices with more local government officials.”
Other communities participating in the program include Martin County and the towns of Archdale, Carthage, China Grove, East Spencer, Garysburg, Hildebran, Jonesville, Liberty, Mars Hill, Marshville, Maysville, Pilot Mountain, Rosman, Spruce Pine, Vass and Wilson’s Mills.
More information about the Rural Transformation Grant Fund and the Rural Community Capacity initiative is available at nccommerce.com/transform.