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Governor Roy Cooper announced today that 30 local governments in rural areas across the state have been awarded grants from the Rural Transformation Grant Fund, a new source of support for rural economic development projects in North Carolina funded by the federal American Rescue Plan. A total of $20.1 million will be issued in this first round of grantmaking from the Fund, which helps local governments overcome challenges that limit their economic competitiveness. The North Carolina Department of Commerce and its Rural Economic Development Division administers the $48 million grant fund.

“North Carolina’s rural communities are our heart and soul, and we are committed to helping them grow and become more competitive,” said Governor Roy Cooper. “Today’s awards will provide both the funds and the expertise to help transform and expand North Carolina’s rural economies, create good jobs, and strong communities.”

The new grant fund, the centerpiece of a broader Rural Engagement and Investment Program from the North Carolina Department of Commerce, addresses a wide variety of needs, from revitalizing downtown districts, building the capacity of local government staffs, revitalizing neighborhoods, fostering small business recovery, and generally supporting economic growth initiatives.

The Rural Transformation Grant Fund awarded grants in three categories today:

  • The Downtown Revitalization category supports downtown development initiatives that help grow and leverage a community’s commercial core into an asset for economic growth and prosperity.
  • The Resilient Neighborhoods category offers grants focused on community development and quality of life improvements, such as eliminating food deserts, creating healthy living initiatives, and increasing access to affordable housing options, among other initiatives.
  • The Community Enhancements for Economic Growth category provides grants to local governments to smooth the way for economic development opportunities, such as the acquisition of land and buildings, the preparation of business sites, and the removal of structural and physical barriers that may be limiting development.

Earlier, on May 24, a fourth category of the program known as Rural Community Capacity Building (RC2) announced an initial cohort of nineteen communities across the state that would participate in an educational initiative to bolster the professional development and planning capacity of local government staffs.

“Economic development success requires extensive preparation and planning,” said North Carolina Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders. “I’m excited to see how this first round of grants will help many rural communities in North Carolina reach the next level of prosperity.”

Local governments awarded project grants from the Rural Transformation Grant Fund include:

Downtown Revitalization Category

City of Newton $900,000

City of Sanford $900,000

Town of Old Fort $900,000

City of Lumberton $900,000

Town of Spencer $900,000

Town of Tarboro $875,000

City of Greenville $875,000

Town of Valdese $850,000

County of Stokes $850,000

City of Rockingham $750,000

Alexander County $650,000

Town of Weldon $369,778

City of Roxboro $175,000

Town of Mount Olive $175,000

Town of Stantonsburg $50,000

Resilient Neighborhoods Category

Randolph County $900,000

Town of Jonesville $900,000

Town of Pembroke $850,000

Town of Wallace $825,000

Community Enhancements Category

City of Hickory $900,000

City of Salisbury $875,000

City of Raeford $846,000

Town of Windsor $839,450

Town of Butner $825,000

Town of Mars Hill $750,000

Town of Garysburg $355,680

Town of Elizabethtown $332,500

Town of Pilot Mountain $330,000

Warren County $300,000

City of Saluda $170,000 

“Today’s awards allow us to share more widely the best practices we know work well for rural economic development programs,” said Kenny Flowers, the Commerce Department’s Assistant Secretary for Rural Economic Development. “I look forward to working with these communities and others to come later, as we work to transform the economy in rural North Carolina.”

The application window for the second round of funding will open in early September of 2022. More information about the Rural Transformation Grant Fund is available at nccommerce.com/transform. A map displaying the locations of today’s awards is available here.

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