The Community and Economic Development program at the School of Government provides public officials with training, research, and assistance that support local efforts to create jobs and wealth, expand the tax base, and maintain vibrant communities. We deploy the resources of the University to support the development goals of communities in North Carolina.

Hometown Strong: A Rural Initiative

In the state of North Carolina (NC), 80 out of 100 counties are rural. In fact, among the 10 most populous states, NC has the largest proportion of individuals living in rural areas, ranking second only to Texas. Despite the sizeable rural population, factors that drive density and growth in communities are not completely present in the rural areas of the state. This fact is further compounded by a study recently conducted by the The Carolina Population Center showcasing that 41 percent of North Carolina towns have shown a decline in population with another 192 municipalities displaying stagnant growth. This growth is at a rate that is slower than the state’s average of 6.4 percent. The data from the study also showed that the northeast corner of the state has been the hardest hit by slow growth and this is where a large concentration of rural communities lie.

In light of these statistics, a new initiative by Governor Roy Cooper is positioned to provide assistance to the rural areas of the state. Hometown Strong was launched in February 2018 and described as an initiative that will restructure the state government’s approach to addressing the needs of NC’s rural communities. The purpose of Hometown Strong is to create a partnership between state agencies and local leaders for rural communities. Through the leveraging of state and local resources, the initiative’s goals are to identify ongoing projects and community needs, implement plans to boost the economy, improve infrastructure, and strengthen NC towns. Read More…

Combining Multiple Property Tax Exclusions for Re-Development Projects

In a North Carolina town, a long-vacant historic mill with environmental contamination has sat empty on the edge of downtown for years. The Town has taken action to see the property transformed. Town staff worked through a brownfields process to clear the major environmental problems associated with the property, and the Town engaged the UNC Development Finance Initiative (DFI) to evaluate the financial feasibility of private development on the site and to attract a developer. Now a developer has proposed an adaptive reuse of the historic building that aligns with the Town’s interests. The developer hopes to take advantage of property tax exemptions to make the project work financially and asks whether the property can benefit from both the brownfields exclusion in G.S. 105-277.13 and the historic property exclusion in G.S. 105-278.  When this question came to me, I initially thought it would be fairly simple to answer. After much research and discussion, I’ve discovered that this question is anything but simple. Nor is my answer.

I think it is possible for the same owner and property to benefit from more than one property tax exclusion simultaneously.  But it depends on the exclusions involved.  Some exclusions permit simultaneous eligibility, others do not.  Different exclusions may apply to different portions of a property.  What’s more, even if a property may be eligible for multiple exclusions simultaneously the Machinery Act does not provide guidance on the appropriate calculation method.

In other words, it’s complicated. Read on for the details. Read More…

Part I: The Start Up and Co-Working Scene in North Carolina

https://www.wework.com/buildings/stonewall-station--charlotte
WeWork Stonewall Station in Charlotte

Hearing talk of “angel investors” looking for “unicorn companies” by grown adults sitting in a circle cross-legged on a polished concrete floor might not seem like business as usual, but this new way of doing business is quickly gaining traction. The startup community in North Carolina appears to be stronger than it has ever been, with entrepreneurs in NC collectively raising more than $1.1 billion in 2017, 36.5% more than the previous year. Business incubators are appearing in the dense urban areas, far-reaching rural areas, and everywhere in between.  The first part of this three-part series will focus on a trend that business incubators and the startup community have adopted.  In the second section, there will be a deep dive of three of the Triangle’s business incubator’s, specificallyHQ Raleigh, American Undergroundin Durham, andLaunch Chapel Hill.  For the final part, the state-wide economic impact of these startups and recent trends will be explored.  Read More…

Preparing for a Presentation

This is part of a series of posts on the topic of leadership as applied to community and economic development, authored by UNC School of Government faculty member Willow Jacobson.

We find ourselves in many situations in which we need to make a convincing argument — sometimes as part of a public presentation to a large group and other times to just a few people.  For example, you might find yourself talking to a group about the possibility of using a Community Development Block Grant for revitalization efforts or the potential benefits of building a minor league baseball stadium. I was recently talking with a professor of Communications at UNC-CH and he shared that when preparing for any of these situations that one needs to keep in mind that they will need to make some key strategic choices.  They need to think through: “who you are and what you represent”.  First, one must recognize that people will first start to listen based on assumptions and expectations about the speaker.  As the speaker you need to think through these and recognize if you need to address any of these issues upfront.  Next, it is critical to “define why the audience should listen to you by invoking an emotional tie” and finally, consider “how you make a point”. Read More…

University Contributions to Municipal Service Districts in NC

One tool that local governments utilize in order to promote revitalization and growth in communities across North Carolina involve the use of Municipal Service District (MSD) taxation revenue. MSDs are designated areas, usually within a municipality’s central business district or other area of interest, which may levy an additional property tax to provide additional services to the district. Professor Kara Millonzi of the School of Government discusses MSDs in detail and describes recent changes to the governing law in an earlier blog post. Examples of services provided by MSD revenue within a downtown revitalization district include street cleaning, landscaping, public events management, safety, economic development, marketing, and other initiatives to promote MSD areas. Read More…

What @sog_ced is reading online: April 2018

The following are articles and reports on the web that the Community and Economic Development Program at the UNC School of Government shared through social media over the past month. Follow us on twitter or facebook to receive regular updates.

Items of interest related to CED in North Carolina:

News & Observer article shows how much the City of Raleigh is paying to subsidize affordable housing at various projects. http://bit.ly/2HmNcSQ 

Background information and list of North Carolina’s designated “opportunity zones” – http://bit.ly/2Fl3So0 .

Other CED items:                                           

Study of national data shows that school choice accelerates gentrification. Housing advocates suggest that wealthier families may be more open to moving to low income neighborhoods when they aren’t required to attend the neighborhood school. https://theatln.tc/2EcH1u4

U.S. Treasury memo recommends modifying CRA (Community Reinvestment Act) regulations that require banks to serve their communities. The Treasury proposes updating the definition of assessment areas to reflect modern banking, with the hope that this would benefit more communities. http://bit.ly/2GEEvmL  Read More…

Act Locally, Save Federally: The National Flood Insurance CRS Program

The UNC Environmental Finance Center (EFC) typically focuses on the role of local governments in directly providing and funding basic community environmental services such as water, wastewater, stormwater, and solid waste management. For example, the EFC recently released a set of resources related to local government stormwater fees that local programs use to fund their stormwater services. These types of resources help local governments raise funds for critical environmental protection activities but there are other ways that local governments can play a role in supporting environmental finance. Recent news out of Brunswick County, North Carolina highlights the Read More…

2017 New Market Tax Credit Allocations in North Carolina

The U.S. Treasury Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) Fund was created to help CDFIs promote economic revitalization throughout the United States. CDFIs are designed to expand access to capital in underserved communities and the CDFI Fund provides financial assistance and support to these organizations. A part of the CDFI Fund’s supportive programming mechanism is the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) Program.

The NMTC Program was established as part of the Community Renewal Tax Relief Act of 2000. The goal of the program is to assist disinvested communities in reinvigorating their local economies by providing tax incentives to investors in these areas. Credits are allocated to designated Community Development Entities (CDEs) to invest in projects. The private capital attracted through the NMTC Program is used primarily to finance businesses in these communities that include manufacturing facilities, food, retail, housing, health, technology, and education. Communities benefit from the jobs associated with these businesses and the provision of access to better commercial and community services (for more information, a primer on NMTCs can be found here). Between 2003 and 2015, the NMTC has financed over 5,000 projects. Read More…

Trying to Capture a Community’s CED: New Dashboard of Growth, Prosperity and Inclusion Data

The new Metro Monitor 2018 reportby the Metropolitan Policy Programat the Brooking Institution includes an enticing tool for CED professionals: interactive graphs tracking the growth, prosperity, and inclusion of 100 different metro areas over the last 17 years.  For North Carolina, the areas include Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, Greensboro-High Point, Raleigh and Winston-Salem, which might seem of limited interest to CED professionals elsewhere in the state.  But don’t be fooled – the dashboards demonstrate a truly impressive way to spark conversations using data. The clear layout and intriguing results offers a rich opportunity for any CED professionals wanting to demonstrate the power of this kind of data, regardless of city or county.

Read More…

Utilizing Program Income and Revolving Funds to Stretch CDBGs

One of the tools that local governments utilize in community revitalization efforts are Community Development Block Grants (CDBGs). This U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) program provides grants to local governments to fund projects such as affordable housing, infrastructure improvements, and natural disaster recovery. In the 2017 fiscal year, the state of North Carolina received approximately $44 million for the state’s CDBG program; most of the funding went towards economic development and infrastructure needs in the state. In addition, 30 North Carolina municipalities received CDBG funds that totaled to approximately $27 million. However, proposed legislative actions may result in severe reductions of CDBG funds for low and moderate income communities. While the future of the CDBG program is in question, state and municipal agencies have used program income and revolving funds to stretch out previously allocated CDBG funds to finance community projects.

Program income is defined as the ‘gross income received by grantee and sub-recipients directly generated from the use of CDBG funds’. This can come from a variety of sources, ranging from the proceeds of leased or sold property purchased from CDBG funds to principal and interest payments on loans from CDBG funds. Any program income that is accrued from CDBG activities can be placed in a separate revolving fund. These revolving funds are established to carry out specific activities which generate payments to the general fund to carry out a specific activity, such as affordable housing development or disaster recovery. The CED blog has covered the basics of revolving loan funds in the past; check out this post on loan funds for affordable housingand this post on loan funds for small businesses. Read More…