Will Lambe is the Director of the Community & Economic Development Program and the Community-Campus Partnership.
The third of three Governor’s forums on Small Town Competitiveness was held at Haywood Community College on October 6. As mentioned in a previous post, forums are an opportunity for local leaders from small towns in North Carolina to interact with the Governor about opportunities and challenges in community and economic development. Resource providers such as the Golden LEAF Foundation, NC Rural Center, USDA, NC Commerce, School of Government and others are on-hand to meet with participants about various resources available to support local priorities.
The following is a summary of the issues and priorities facing small towns in North Carolina that emerged during the third and final forum in Haywood County.
- The vice president from WNC Communities, which works with family farmers in NC to sell cattle, thanked the governor and Appalachian Regional Commission for support of western agriculture. WNC Communities is dedicated to providing a unique forum for leaders in the mountain region of Western North Carolina to convene, collaborate and carry out innovative programs to improve the quality of life for rural communities and to enhance the economy of the agriculture sector.
- The city manager from Canton, NC, thanked the governor for financial assistance with a critical sewer project and described cooperation between Haywood Co, Canton, Golden LEAF, Rural Center, Bojangles, and several other private partners to improve infrastructure.
- A professor from UNC Asheville encouraged the governor and participants to think differently about economic development in western, NC. Protect natural assets, consider sewer treatment plants as possible tertiary wetland.
- The mayor of Shelby, NC, thanked the governor for the Main Street Program and for her support of state tax credits. The mayor described a program called “rural experiences for youth,” which introduces underserved young people to outdoor activities, wilderness activities, agriculture, etc.
- The economic development director from Lenoir, NC thanked the governor for a Main Street Solutions grant.
- At this point, the governor asked participants to stop thanking her and to ask hard questions.
- A leader from Hayesville, NC, described the community’s success in creating a hike and bike trail, and a Cherokee heritage attraction. Requested that the governor support Handmade in America, which teaches small communities to use partnerships.
- An entrepreneur from Haywood Trout Farm requested assistance in providing health insurance to small businesses. Asked for the governor’s support in keeping the trout industry viable in western NC.
- An artist from Warren Wilson College asked that the governor continue to pay attention to the fracking issue and thanked her for vetoing the recent fracking bill.
- The mayor of Dillsboro, NC, requested the governor’s support for a steam engine and switch station for the Dillsboro Hub.
- The town manager of Valdese, NC, asked the governor to support small business loan funds. Asked for help reducing the burden of building codes in distressed downtown properties.
- The mayor of Brevard, NC, put in a plug for nonprofits and emphasized the importance of nonprofit services.
- An economic development leader from West Jefferson, NC, asked the governor to help with spreading word on the Capital Access Program (CAP), which she alleges local banks do not understand.
- A small business owner from Haywood County, NC, works with small businesses. Asked the governor for help spreading information about, and increasing utilization of, the CAP program.
- A local leader from Graham County, NC, expressed a need for Internet access in Graham County; not middle mile, last mile is what they need.
Will Lambe authored the NC Rural Center report, Small Towns, Big Ideas, and he served as Director of the Community and Economic Development Program at the School of Government from 2009 to 2014.