2022 NC Rural Center Impact Report
Stories of Impact
Board + Staff
A message from our President
Dear Rural Partners,
I recently told a group of business leaders that I’ve been in the rural economic development profession for 30 years, and I’m an eternal optimist. It is a prerequisite for the job. When pessimism or doubt starts to creep in, I climb in my Subaru and set out for rural North Carolina. Inevitably, my hopes and spirits are revived, even in our most challenging rural places. I know with confidence that rural leaders with big dreams will always rise to address their challenges and to create new opportunities for their “center of the universe.”
This Impact Report reflects our work in 2022 to develop and support thriving small business owners and entrepreneurs; to engage rural communities and promote capable, inclusive leadership; to serve as a united voice for rural communities through a robust public policy agenda; and to connect rural communities to critical resources regardless of where those resources may be found.
The NC Rural Center, rural communities, and rural leadership (defined broadly) find ourselves in historically unique times characterized by the daunting pace of economic and societal change on the one hand and unique opportunities to access an abundance of resources to address those challenges on the other. The Rural Center has been at the forefront of seeking to understand how our rural communities are evolving while at the same time advocating for an expansion of resources to meet the times in which we all live. Like our partners, we dream big, and now is the time to grow into those dreams.
We believe stories that reflect real work being done by rural people in rural places are the best way to bring our challenges and opportunities to life for decision makers and resource providers, and we believe the stories we have selected here will resonate with each of you. We invite you to share in our big dream of a rural North Carolina where all people have the knowledge, resources, and connections they need to lead their communities into a prosperous future. We invite you to join us in continuing to support the dreams that are transforming lives and communities throughout rural North Carolina.
President, NC Rural Center
The NC Rural Center serves small businesses and small-town entrepreneurs, connecting urban and rural spaces, to ensure the sustainability and growth of our entire state. Our lending programs expand access to capital, particularly for those who have historically been socially and economically disadvantaged.
We support existing small businesses and enable the emergence of successful, new entrepreneurs throughout the rural counties in our state and beyond through direct and intermediary lending programs.
To be the best advocate for our state’s rural people and places, we must promote sound public policy. Our positions are informed by leading-edge, unbiased research and data, and by the wisdom and expertise of the people who call rural North Carolina home.
The Rural Counts advocacy program researches, develops, and advocates for innovative nonpartisan policy solutions to rural North Carolina’s biggest economic development challenges. The Rural Center provides reports and data visualizations, as well as advocacy tools so people can take action and make their voice heard.
The Rural Center helps communities articulate clear visions, invest in building their assets, and create cultures of collaborative problem-solving through our Collective Broadband and Faith in Rural Communities programs, and our annual Rural Summit.
Collaborative Broadband works with state and local governments to help ensure broadband is accessible in every corner of North Carolina.
Faith in Rural Communities helps teams identify the powerful intersection between church assets and community opportunities through tailored coaching and grant assistance.
Each year, our Rural Summit brings together community leaders, policymakers, and rural advocates from across the state and nation to engage in thoughtful, intentional dialogue about the actions we can take today to advance policy and systems change across a broad spectrum of rural development issues.
As a promoter of inclusive, connected, informed, and creative leadership, the Rural Center supports the state’s next generation of rural leaders. For over 35 years, leadership development has been at the core of our work with programs that support leaders in their communities, counties, and regions.
The Center’s flagship leadership program, the Rural Economic Development Institute (REDI), offers participants collaborative leadership skills and rural development strategies to help them return home and make meaningful impact in their communities. Each year, REDI welcomes local, state, and federal government staff, nonprofit and faith-based leaders, business owners, elected officials, economic development professionals, and other community-minded people for nine days of intensive rural community economic development training.
Homegrown Leaders is a three-day regional leadership and community economic development training that equips existing and emerging leaders with the skills they need to lead long-term economic advancement in their communities and regions.
Alumni of REDI and Homegrown Leaders are part of our Alumni Network, which provides a space for graduates of our programs to stay connected and continue conversations about innovative leadership.