North Carolina Department of Commerce opens $48 million fund for rural economic development

RALEIGH- There is a new source of funding for rural economic development, and the program is now accepting applications, the North Carolina Department of Commerce announced today.

The $48 million fund, known as the Rural Transformation Grant Fundis administered by the Rural Economic Development Division.

“As we emerge from the pandemic, we must help our rural communities become stronger, vibrant and resilient places to live and work,” North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said in a statement. “This new fund will provide both grants and expertise to help transform and grow our rural economies.”

The fund will award grants in four categories, selecting from applications from local governments that “seek to overcome challenges that limit their economic competitiveness,” the statement said.

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Funding categories

The categories are:

  1. Downtown revitalization, that supports downtown development initiatives;
  2. Resilient neighborhoods, which will offer grants that the Department of Commerce says will be “focused on community development and improving the quality of life, such as eliminating food deserts, creating healthy living initiatives and improving access to affordable housing options, among other initiatives.
  3. Community improvements for economic growth, to local governments to “clear the way for economic development opportunities, such as acquiring land and buildings, preparing commercial sites, and removing structural and physical barriers that may limit development,” the statement said.

The final category, known as Rural Community Capability, or RC2 for short, will begin as a pilot initiative in partnership with Appalachian State University’s Walker College of Business, the Department of Commerce statement said. This initiative will involve “targeted educational programs, technical assistance and counseling for local government personnel in rural and distressed communities,” the statement said.

The Commerce Department continues to focus on helping communities across the state prepare for economic growth, North Carolina Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders said in the statement. The Department of Commerce launched a digital tool in 2021, for example, which aimed to stimulate economic activity on Main Street.

“Now, with the establishment of the Rural Transformation Grants Fund, we can tap into additional resources to energize the approaches we know work well and can take rural North Carolina to the next level of prosperity.” , Sanders said.

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