157 investments & loans for small bussinesses and microenterprises, totaling more than $8M, leveraging private funds of more than $90M
2,834 jobs created or retained
More than 17,745 training hours for rural leaders and small business owners
More than 211 workshops, seminars, and coaching meetings
One mission: To serve Rural North Carolina

Dear Rural Partners,

The numbers are in and we are pleased to share with you our 2016 Impacts Report. The snapshot above captures some of our successes over the past year. On the pages ahead you will learn more about our programs, people, and the communities we work with across rural North Carolina.

The Rural Center engages communities in collaborations that honor the people and places we serve, that supports local leaders, and that at all times advances our mission to serve rural North Carolina. In this report you’ll find many examples of partnerships that produced remarkable results. New leaders emerged claiming their rural communities as their own, more businesses opened in our small towns, and rural people across the state made their voices heard.

I want to thank all who have made an investment in the Rural Center this year and in the past, and I seek your continued support moving forward. Without the assistance of our federal, corporate, and philanthropic partners, our work with rural communities would not be so impactful. My hope is that this report will excite you with stories of success and encourage your further engagement with the work that is left to be done. Together we will continue to improve the quality of life of all rural North Carolinians, from the mountains to the coast.


Patrick N. Woodie

Our mission is to develop, promote, and implement sound economic strategies to improve the quality of life of rural North Carolinians. We serve the state’s 80 rural counties, with a special focus on individuals with low to moderate incomes and communities with limited resources.

For 30 years, The Rural Center has operated from the core belief that our rural communities are important … that they count.

In 2016, we launched our first-ever advocacy agenda with the release of Rural Counts: 10 Strategies for Rural North Carolina’s Future. The report offers a way forward for a stronger rural economy in the context of a rapidly changing state. It is the direct result of the many in-depth and productive conversations we had across the state with the people who call our rural places home.

Rural North Carolina has a bright future. To secure it, the Center offers these 10 strategies to guide our action today and be the measure of our success tomorrow. We must make real and sustainable advancement in all 10 strategic areas to fully realize economic potential for our rural communities and citizens.

Ice cream shop in Concord, NC

The first five strategies provide the foundation for success:

  1. Vigorously advocate for innovation in education and workforce development
  2. Stabilize and transform rural health
  3. Expand accessible and affordable high-speed fiber broadband
  4. Accelerate modernization of essential rural water and wastewater infrastructure
  5. Expand and upgrade transportation and natural gas infrastructure
Man smiling while attending event at the Rural Center

Building upon a solid foundation, we can then focus on our best opportunities for new rural job creation:

  1. Invest in stronger entrepreneurship and small business development systems
  2. Strengthen homegrown manufacturing
  3. Develop opportunities for agriculture and natural resources, including biotechnology and value-added food processing
    Two workers in front of John Deere tractor

    The final two organizational strategies focus on how we will accomplish the work we need to do:

    1. Enhance regional collaboration and partnerships
    2. Stabilize and leverage rural development funding, capacity building, and technical assistance

      In December of 2016, the Center approved its 2017 advocacy priorities, a set of policy issues that cut across the Rural Counts strategies. Those cross-cutting issue areas include supporting Hurricane Matthew recovery, improving rural transportation and broadband infrastructure, monitoring revisions to the state’s economic tier system, and bridging the rural-urban divide.

      In December, we also kicked off our Rural Counts webinar series. More than 230 people signed up for “Navigating Change,” a close look at the impact of the historic 2016 elections and what it means for the policy environment of 2017. 

      In order to implement our 10 Rural Count strategies and make an impact across the state we need your help! Sign up today as a Rural Counts Advocate and be the first to hear about ways you can make a difference. You will receive our Rural Counts monthly newsletter, featuring updates on state and national policy, news, and information about issues that matter. You will be the first to receive timely alerts to participate in rural advocacy that matters.

      Together, let’s show why #RuralCounts!


      Entrepreneurship & Microenterprise

      Homegrown businesses are a key strategy to build and sustain rural economies. The Center’s entrepreneurship program works with people who are trying to start or expand a small business by providing free one-on-one business coaching and access to loan capital through our Microenterprise Loan Program. The Center’s New Generation Ventures program supports 18- to 30-year-old entrepreneurs with business coaching, scholarships for business training, and access to capital. In the wake of Hurricane Matthew, the NC Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program was created to provide small businesses short-term, interest-free loans to help them get back on their feet and get back to doing business.

      37 loans totaling $598,781.75 with the average loan size of $16,183.29. 51% of loans distributed to women-owned businesses. 27% of loans distributed to minority-owned businesses.
      127 seminar hours
      575 seminar attendees
      1,725 total training hours
      176 jobs created and retained

      New Generations Ventures Program: Helping empower, educate, and care for rural communities in NC

      Alicia Parker accepting the Outstanding Young Entrepreneur award at the 2016 NC Rural AssemblyAlicia Parker is owner and director of Royalty Health & Wellness Resources in Eden, NC, and a participant in the Rural Center’s New Generation Ventures (NGV) program. She joined NGV with a vision of starting a home health-care agency after recognizing the aging population in her community and the lack of quality care to assist those individuals.

      She built her business with the mission of serving as a community resource where individuals, families, employees, and fellow businesses can gain quality education on a multitude of health and safety topics. She ensures that the disabled adults and pediatric clients experience reliable, competent care. During her time as a NGV client, Parker faced many challenges, however, with assistance from the Rural Center, along with her unfailing determination and deep commitment to her community, she created a successful business. Today, Royalty Health & Wellness Resources has 30 employees and is one of the top home health-care companies in Rockingham County, serving more than 35 clients.

      Flood in Kinston resulting from Hurricane Matthew
      Derria and Barry Dixon at the beach

      Dixon Social Interactive Services: Rebuilding after Hurricane Matthew

      The NC Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program was a partnership of the Rural Center, the NC Small Business and Technology Development Center, and the NC Community Colleges Small Business Center Network.

      The Rural Center made the first bridge loan to Derria and Barry Dixon of Dixon Social Interactive Services. The Dixons are a provider of mental and behavioral health services. They offer counseling, day treatment, and therapy to individuals as well as families with offices in Greenville, Kinston, New Bern, and Rocky Mount.

      Funds for the Bridge Loan program were raised from the Golden LEAF Foundation, NC’s Electric Cooperatives, BB&T, and Wells Fargo to assist North Carolina small businesses and family farms as they recovered from the devastating effects of Hurricane Matthew. The program provided small businesses like the Dixons a short-term, interest-free loan while federal loans, insurance payouts, and other disaster relief funds were pending approval. 

      Following Hurricane Matthew, the Dixons were shocked to find their office in Kinston ruined with nearly a foot of water covering the floor and most of its contents destroyed. The couple heard about the Emergency Bridge Loan Program, applied, and were approved for a loan to help them quickly get back on their feet. 

      “This was our first time working with the Rural Center and it has been a beyond pleasant experience, from the quickness in addressing the need our community had, to approving the loan. We are grateful,” said Derria Dixon. Having to cease operations when the hurricane hit was a big blow for the Dixons, but with the bridge loan they were able to bounce back while waiting for their insurance to cover damages.

      NC Small Business Credit Initiative

      The NC Small Business Credit Initiative makes capital available for startups and business expansions across the state. The Initiative was created by the federal Small Business Jobs Act of 2010, which allocated $46.3 million in North Carolina to support private sector capital formation in small businesses.

      The Initiative is available through traditional lenders such as banks, certified development financial institutions, and credit unions. By reducing the risks involved, it allows lenders to approve some business loans they otherwise could not. The Initiative works through venture capital and angel funds, which make equity investments in North Carolina businesses.

      Loans and investments are available in all 100 North Carolina counties. Since the program’s inception, more than 40 percent of the loans have been in rural counties. The Initiative’s three funding programs have been designed to be evergreen, and loan repayments and gains on investments are recycled to support additional small business capital needs.

      In 2016, there were 120 loans & investments totaling more than $8M, leveraging private funds of more than $90M. Since 2011, there were 780 loans & investments totaling more than $54M, leveraging private funds of more than $600M.
      In 2016, there were 2,658 jobs created or retained. Since 2011, there have been over 12,525 jobs created or retained.
      Percent of program loans/investments distributed: 41% women-owned; 18% minority-owned; 13% veteran-owned; 21% low-moderate income (LMI) census tract
      Participants having fun learning to drum on electric drums at Servant's Heart

      Servant’s Heart: A success story in Guilford County

      Before entering the ministry, Van Tanner was a successful businessman and entrepreneur. 

      But one of the most difficult business challenges he ever faced was securing private funding to expand the work of Servant’s Heart, the nonprofit he founded with his wife, Gina, in Greensboro in 1998. The organization provides a wide spectrum of coordinated care for adults with mental and developmental disabilities.

      Tanner approached a bank he had done business with in the past to secure a loan to purchase a property to be the organization’s central office and new day center.

      Unfortunately, it didn’t work out. Tanner realized translating the expenses and defining the successes of a nonprofit into the standard template of private business lending was not an easy sale. But Tanner persisted, and that’s when NewBridge Bank came into the picture.

      “They dug in there and we were able to put the loan together,” Tanner continued. “Then they got The Rural Center involved and that’s what made it happen. “ 

      The Rural Center operates the N.C. Loan Participation Program through its Small Business Credit Initiative. The program reduces a private lender’s risk by purchasing up to 15 percent of a loan made to a business or nonprofit.  

      With the $560,000 loan in place, Servant’s Heart was able to purchase their new property. 

      “The use of the Loan Participation Program for Servant’s Heart is a great example of how the program can be utilized to empower local businesses to reach their financial goals and make a difference in their communities,” said NewBridge Bank Senior Credit Officer LaNell DeLoach.

      For Servant’s Heart, it meant a newly renovated building that sits adjacent to the General Green National Military Park in Greensboro. Today, center participants make use of the park’s amenities with their caregivers. 

      “Small things are big things to them,” Tanner said. “It provides a new sense of identity and a connection to the community, and reaffirms their identity as a viable part of that community.“

      Community Bank of the Year: North State Bank’s customer-centric philosophy

      Founded in 2000, North State Bank is a full-service community bank serving Wake and New Hanover counties through seven full-service offices. North State Bank is focused on understanding and serving their customers better than any other bank. This focus drives everything they do — from the experience of the bankers hired, to the products and services offered, to how they determine office locations.

      North State Bank is one of the most successful lenders in the NC Small Business Credit Initiative, enrolling more than $25 million in loans that have supported the creation or retention of more than 330 North Carolina jobs. “Supporting small businesses, helping them to grow — including in the creation of new jobs — is one of the best ways to support the communities and the people we serve,” said Larry D. Barbour, president and chief executive officer of North State Bank. “For us, that is what community banking, at its highest and best, is about.”

      Leadership &
      Community Development

      Rural Economic Development Institute
      Since its inception, the Rural Center has recognized the vital importance of local leadership to the success of our state’s rural areas. The Center’s flagship leadership program, the Rural Economic Development Institute (REDI), has trained more than 1,100 rural leaders. REDI offers participants collaborative leadership skills and rural development strategies to help them return home and make meaningful impact in their communities.
      There were 32 graduates of REDI in 2016. Since 1989, there have been 1,104 graduates of REDI.
      There were 3,021 training hours in 2016. Since 1989, there have been 50,189 training hours.
      Class picture of 2016 REDI students on the stairs at the NC General Assembly

      Rural economic development issues can be both complex and challenging. Few leadership development opportunities exist that equip and empower leaders to face those challenges like REDI. From its innovative curriculum, staff support, peer collaboration, networking, to its presentation of emerging issues impacting rural North Carolina. REDI participants leave with the practical understanding and tools necessary to positively affect their communities.

      REDI provided me the opportunity to cultivate my leadership philosophy, while identifying new ways to change and improve my community. I found the depth of the materials and the professional knowledge of the staff to be a tremendous resource. The diversity and insights of my classmates helped to create a learning experience that was invaluable. REDI sharpened my vision for a vibrant, innovative, and productive rural North Carolina.

      Larry Phillips

      Surry County Commissioner, REDI XXVI

      Homegrown Leaders

      In 2016, the Rural Center launched Homegrown Leaders, a regional extension of REDI, which takes a broader and deeper regional approach to rural economic development and leadership advancement. In partnership with the Southwest Commission and Southwestern Community College, the first Homegrown Leaders event was a training for 32 local leaders working or living in Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon, or Swain counties.

      Class picture of 2016 Homegrown Leaders in front of mountain range.
      32 Homegrown Leader graduates
      768 training hours
      $40,000 in investments from funders to train regional leaders
      Homegrown Leaders is one of the most valuable leadership workshops out there. Sometimes you sit in a workshop for eight hours waiting for one piece of useful information. Homegrown is different. You’re engaged the entire day, taking notes and learning things that you can put into immediate action. The education combined with the networking opportunities makes this program invaluable.
      2016 Homegrown Leader Graduate

      Homegrown Leaders is a valuable tool that educates leaders on the art of collaborating on a regional level. The resources provided were extremely helpful and the networking opportunities impressive. I met new colleagues that I have continued to collaborate with on a variety of projects. I learned diverse ways I can contribute to regional economic development in the counties that I serve through my work. It’s an excellent course, worth the time and effort to attend and participate to gain extensive leadership skills.
      2016 Homegrown Leader Graduate

      Thank you to the organizations that supported our Homegrown Leaders in 2016!

      Southwestern Commission Council of Government Appalachian Regional Commission Southwestern Community College Entegra Bank Murphy Electric Power Board Cherokee Preservation Foundation

      STEP for Small Business

      The Rural Center’s community engagement work includes community coaching and strategic planning. The Center regularly delivers in-depth workshops and training opportunities to help communities overcome the challenges of economic transitions and to promote sustained economic and community development. The Center’s STEP for Small Business program worked with seven North Carolina small towns in 2016 to focus their community economic development efforts on promoting entrepreneurship and small business development through community coaching, leadership training, and capital formation including a $100,000 loan fund in each community.

      72 coaching meetings
      1,321 contact hours
      7 towns

      Small Town of the Year: Rutherfordton 

      Rustic road sign that reads: Welcome to Rutherfordton: N.C. Small Town of the YearAcross North Carolina, small towns are finding creative ways to stay alive and relevant in the 21st century. Rutherfordton, one of the oldest towns in the western part of the state, recognizes the importance of connecting with local citizens while concurrently embracing the outside world. Recently, it launched its new brand through marketing collateral, street banners, two new websites, downtown signage, increased social media presence, and trail guides.

      Rutherfordton is finding ways to embrace its small-town values, historic character, scenic beauty, and sense of community, while building a prosperous economy. They are connecting outdoor activity and history on the Purple Mountain Greenway, Downtown Historic Walking Trail, and NC Gold Trails’ Gold Mile. Rutherfordton town leaders also understand that partnerships are key to building the community. These efforts include offering STEM activities at KidSenses Museum, STEM programs at the elementary and middle schools, creating an online downtown business development resource, and redeveloping downtown buildings. Next time you are visiting Lake Lure or Chimney Rock State Park, take a detour to this great small town. We guarantee it will be worth the trip.

      Arial photo of downtown Rutherfordton at sunset

      2016 NC Rural Assembly

      2016 N.C. Rural Assembly: Rural Health & Economic Development

      In September, more than 300 people gathered in Cary for the 2016 Rural Assembly, “Growing Better Together: Rural health and economic development.” Our annual conversation with rural leaders continued with informative speakers and experienced resource organizations discussing the important issues facing rural health care in our state. We heard from several thought leaders on efforts to address the problems of today and plan for the decisions and actions of tomorrow.

      In addition, we heard timely election year presentations from the senatorial and gubernatorial candidates seeking to represent our state. As we reflected on the road ahead, we also took time to celebrate current rural success stories with the announcement of our six annual award winners:

      • Alicia Parker
        Outstanding Young Entrepreneur
      • Katy McLean Gould
        Outstanding Microenterprise Loan Partner
      • North State Bank
        Community Bank of the Year
      • Rutherfordton
        Small Town of the Year
      • Jamilla Hawkins
        Outstanding Young Rural Leader
      • Freddie Killough
        Rural Leader of the Year
      Attendees sitting at round tables in crowded conference room
      390 attendees
      17 hours of lectures, workshops, seminars, and events

      Looking Ahead

      The Rural Center has a lot planned for 2017. We are excited to host the first ever Rural Day on May 9 in Raleigh, and we want you to join us. Register here and let’s show why #RuralCounts.

      This year also marks our 30th anniversary. Follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram as we celebrate and explore three decades of helping North Carolina’s rural people and places.

      Mark your calendars for November 16 and 17. The next Rural Assembly is going to focus on leadership, an increasingly critical issue for rural communities in our state. You’ll want to register early for this one, so sign up for the Rural Center newsletter to be alerted when registration opens and for Assembly updates throughout the year.

      Our Team

      The front doors of the NC Rural Center's office


      Patrick Woodie, President
      Tracie McIver, Executive Assistant

      Barry Ryan, Senior Director

      Entrepreneurship & Microenterprise
      JaLisha Richmond, Program Associate

      Leadership & Community Development
      Misty Herget, Director of Leadership
      Chilton Rogers, Director of Community Engagement

      Small Business Credit Initiative
      Tom Wall, Director
      Damion Smokes, Commercial Loan Process Manager

      Research & Policy
      Jason Gray, Senior Fellow
      John Coggin, Director of Advocacy
      Alfred Garshong, Research/GIS Associate

      Finance & Administration
      Mary Kay Clifford, Director
      Betty Bynum, Administrative Assistant/Technology Manager
      Jennifer McEachran, Senior Accountant
      Patty Eller, Office Manager
      Nora Mayo, Receptionist

      Public Affairs
      Todd Brantley, Senior Director
      Kayla Dobyns, AmeriCorps VISTA


      Ted Alexander, Shelby
      Andy Anderson, Whiteville, Vice chair
      Rex L. Baker, King
      Leslie Boney, Chapel Hill
      Charles Brown, Albemarle
      Brian Crutchfield, Boone
      Vance C. Dalton Jr., Statesville
      Lige Daughtridge, Rocky Mount, Secretary
      Patricia Ferguson, Colerain
      Bill Gibson, Sylva
      Grant Godwin, Raleigh, Chair
      Debbie Hamrick, Raleigh
      CeCe Hipps, Waynesville, Treasurer
      Nelle Hotchkiss, Raleigh
      Lenora Jarvis-Mackey, Elizabeth City
      John Nelms, Raleigh
      Juvencio Rocha-Peralta, Greenville
      Alan Rice, Yadkinville
      Jim Rose, Raleigh
      Alice Schenall, Rocky Mount
      Joseph Stanley, Shallotte
      Sarah Thompson, Sylva
      Jennifer Tolle Whiteside, Raleigh
      Dennis Tracz, Pink Hill
      Clark Twiddy, Duck
      Patrick Woodie, Piney Creek, Rural Center President

      Emeritus members
      Thomas W. Lambeth, Winston-Salem
      Valeria Lee, Rocky Mount
      Kelly S. King, Winston-Salem
      Robert Jordan, Mount Gilead

      Thank You

      As a 501(c)(3) organization, the Rural Center relies on contributions and grants to provide programs and services in North Carolina’s 80 rural counties. We are grateful for the support of the following organizations in 2016 that are ensuring a bright future for rural NC. Thank you!
      • Agri-Medicine Institute
      • Appalachian Regional Commission
      • BB&T
      • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina
      • Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard
      • Golden LEAF
      • Mt. Olive Pickles
      • NC Community Colleges Foundation
      • NC Justice Center
      • NC Electric Cooperatives
      • NCSU – Industry Expansion Solutions
      • RagApple Lassie Vineyards
      • sfL+a Architects
      • SECU Foundation
      • Southern Bank Foundation
      • Southwestern Commission
      • US Economic Development Administration
      • US Department of the Treasury
      • USDA Farm Service Agency
      • USDA Rural Development
      • Wells Fargo Foundation
      • Yadkin Bank d/b/a NewBridge Bank
      • Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation

      Make a gift today to the NC Rural Center and you can help promote economic prosperity and improve the quality of life in rural communities from the mountains to the coast. Thank you!

      Donate Today