Commerce Finalizes Agreement to Transfer Rural Center Grants

RALEIGH, N.C. — Secretary Sharon Decker signed an agreement today that transfers $100 million in state funds from the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center to the N.C. Department of Commerce, which will assume the management and oversight of 421 existing grants totaling in excess of $69 million. The grants provide assistance with building reuse and restoration, water and sewer infrastructure, and economic innovation in rural communities.

“I want to thank Rural Center staff and board members for their spirit of cooperation during this transition,” said Secretary Decker. “We will work diligently to promote economic growth in rural counties across North Carolina.”

As a part of the agreement, the Rural Center will voluntarily return $4.3 million of accrued interest to the state. The transfer resolves a dispute involving the ownership of interest earned on state appropriations. The freeze order on Rural Center funds, which was issued by the Office of State Budget and Management on July 18, 2013, will no longer be in effect once all the terms of the agreement have been fulfilled, including the accounting for state funds. The transfer will also return more than $27 million to the General Fund.

Patrick Woodie, acting president of the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center, and Secretary Decker expressed their continued commitment to focus on the economic health of rural North Carolina.

“Our partnership with Secretary Decker and the Department of Commerce made this resolution possible,” said Bill Gibson, acting chair of the Rural Center Board of Directors. “It ensures the continuation of impactful grants and secures the future of the Rural Center, as we move forward in our efforts to improve the quality of life of rural North Carolinians.”

The newly-created Rural Economic Development Division will manage the grants originally awarded by the Rural Center. The rural division, led by Assistant Secretary for Rural Economic Development Pat Mitchell, will also administer new grants made by the Rural Infrastructure Authority that help fund the construction of critical infrastructure needs, provide assistance to reuse vacant buildings or build health care facilities in rural communities.