While North Carolina has become a more urban state in the past 20 years, small and rural communities continue to make up a large part of our population.
In fact, all or parts of at least 85 counties in North Carolina are considered rural. These communities are an important part of our state and their success helps ensure success for all of us. Fittingly, we have a number of important initiatives that are either in place or expanding to help serve the people who live in rural North Carolina. I have included some information this week for you about some of these programs. I hope you find it useful.
Thank you as always for your interest in North Carolina and state government. Please contact me if I can be of any service to you.
Jobs and Economy
The Rural Economic Development Center has almost $24 million in grant money to help create jobs through two important programs.
Nearly $13 million is available through the center’s Economic Infrastructure Water and Sewer Grants Program. The grants can be used to upgrade utilities to allow for new business locations or expansions. Up to $10,000 is available for each job to be created, with a maximum grant of $1 million or half the total project cost. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.
The General Assembly expanded the Building Reuse and Restoration Grants Program by $3 million. The $11 million program helps communities restore and renovate vacant buildings for use by new and expanding businesses. Development grants of up to $480,000 are available for projects in Tier 1 and Tier 2 counties. Grants are capped at $240,000 for projects in Tier 3 counties. For most projects, at least one job must be created for each $8,000 in grant funding. The next application deadline is Sept. 3.
Since they were launched in 2004, the two programs combined have awarded more than $80 million to 378 projects, assisting 470 businesses and creating 11,200 jobs. The grants are awarded to local governments, which work with the businesses to ensure job creation.
The General Assembly expanded the Rural Center’s Small Business Assistance Fund from $500,000 to $1.5 million. The center is working with the Self-Help Credit Union to leverage the state’s investment into $7.5 million in small business loans. The additional $1 million in this fund is expected to result in loans to more than 150 small businesses that will create 550 jobs. The priority for these loans goes to businesses: in rural counties; owned by women or minorities; with less than 100 employees and $10 million in sales; that create new jobs that pay above their county’s average wage; and that leverage federal stimulus dollars.
The Rural Center received $1 million in additional money for the Family Farm Opportunity and Innovation Fund. The money will be distributed to farmers in grants of up to $20,000 to help improve energy efficiency on the farm, to develop new markets for their products and to develop new products. The total value of the fund from all sources is $18 million, including $1 million from the Tobacco Trust Fund to match the state’s contribution.
Agriculture remains the state’s top industry with an estimated annual value of $70 billion. Seventeen percent of all jobs in the state are related to agriculture or agribusiness. The industry is threatened by increasing urbanization. Since 2002, North Carolina has lost more than 6,000 farms and 600,000 acres of farmland. Legislators are trying to stem the losses through the work of the state’s Farmland Preservation Trust. The trust supports farming, forestry, and horticulture by buying agriculture and conservation easements and funding programs that help family farmers develop business and marketing plans. The General Assembly put $2 million into the trust this year.
The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources have been directed to help develop a plan and a report on agricultural water infrastructure needs. The new law (SL2010-149, H1748) instructs the departments to continue to work with the North Carolina Farm Bureau Federation, other agricultural groups, and farmers on the plan, as well as to identify and encourage voluntary water conservation and protection. The law also calls for the development of a cost-share program to help farmers and agricultural landowners who adopt best management practices for water conservation. The departments must report their findings to the Legislative Study Commission on Water and Wastewater Infrastructure by Nov. 1.
The state provided $250,000 for the Department of Agriculture “Got to Be NC” marketing campaign. This program promotes North Carolina farm products by helping to develop markets for North Carolina produce and products in grocery stores, restaurants, farmers markets, and other establishments.
The Department of Agriculture received $200,000 to augment its international trade efforts. The department’s International Trade Office helps connect farmers and North Carolina suppliers of agricultural commodities to international buyers. This money will help support additional international trade efforts and missions, especially in the growing export markets for pork, tobacco, and cotton to China and Central America.
The state Office of Rural Health has received $1 million to help small rural hospitals pay for operations and infrastructure maintenance. The office works collaboratively with the NC Hospital Association to distribute the money. Hospitals can typically request $75,000 to $125,000 for equipment or enhancements that will help improve their long-term fiscal stability.
A person who has been issued a permit to remove a coyote now has an additional option under legislation approved this year by the General Assembly. A new law (SL 2010 -156, H1824) allows the use of a humane, live capture collar trap. The trap works by throwing a cable loop over the animal’s head. The end of the loop is anchored in the ground. The law requires that the trap be checked daily and that a dog or any other animal not targeted by the trap be released unharmed. The law was recommended by the House Select Committee on Coyote Nuisance Control.
The Legislative Research Commission has been authorized to study the issue of whether the Wildlife Resources has carried out its mandate to increase its capability for studying foxes and other fur-bearing populations and then to implement plans that would produce “optimum” populations of the animals in the state. The study allows the commission to solicit input from hunters, trappers, public health authorities, agriculture officials and other interested parties. The studies bill (SL2010-152, S900) also allows for a study of the issue of adequate insurance coverage options for fresh produce growers.
Medicago will bring a new vaccine production facility to Durham, creating 85 jobs. The project was made possible in part by a $128,000 grant from the One North Carolina Fund.
Noranda Aluminum will expand its Norandal USA plant in Salisbury. The company plans to create 25 jobs and invest $7 million. The project was made possible in part by a $108,000 grant from the One North Carolina Fund.
I plan to attend the following meetings/events:
Please invite me to attend your county, city, community or civic, etc. meetings or events.
As I’ve said many times before, I hope you will continue to let me know how you feel about the issues that are being debated by the North Carolina Legislature and the challenges you and your family are facing each day.
By working together, we can make Northampton, Vance and Warren Counties and all regions of North Carolina a better place to live, work and raise a family.