Category: Community and Economic Development (page 1 of 2)

ncIMPACT Town Hall: Constructing North Carolina’s Creative Placemaking Economy, Premieres Thursday, January 30 at 7pm

The ncIMPACT Initiative at the UNC School of Government partnered with UNC-Charlotte’s Urban Institute, Destination Cleveland County, UNC-TV, and Civic Federal Credit Union to highlight efforts in the Shelby region to leverage cultural resources for economic development. The broadcast will offer a great way to help leaders in other regions of the state better understand how communities like Shelby are using creative placemaking strategies to strengthen their local economy.

“Creative placemaking is a process where community members, artists, arts and culture organizations, community developers, and other stakeholders use arts and cultural strategies to implement community-led change. This approach aims to increase vibrancy, improve economic conditions, and build capacity among residents to take ownership of their communities.” American Planning Association

According to the NC Arts Council, North Carolina’s creative industries are responsible for more than 417,000 jobs, representing 7 percent of the state’s workforce. These jobs generate $18 billion in wages, salaries and benefits. Creative Industries produce $29 billion in revenues and attract arts travelers who stay longer and spend more money while visiting various places.

Panelists for the ncIMPACT Town Hall filmed at the Earl Scruggs Center in Shelby include:

  • Stan Anthony, Mayor, City of Shelby
  • David Dear, Co-Owner, Newgrass Brewing
  • Melanie Graham, Owner, Morgan and Wells Bed and Breakfast
  • Jeff Michael, Director, UNC-Charlotte Urban Institute
  • Brownie Plaster, Destination Cleveland County
  • Audrey Whetten, Executive Director, Uptown Shelby Association

These ongoing statewide ncIMPACT Town Hall events enhance the weekly ncIMPACT series. Just as we take ncIMPACT into communities, tackling problems head on by meeting with bold, positive change agents, the ncIMPACT town halls serve as a convening for a region’s residents, businesses, non-profits and government organizations to share their stories, ideas and solutions.

ncIMPACT is designed to get North Carolinians excited about these opportunities for creating positive change in their communities and in North Carolina. In addition to over-the-air broadcasts, the ncIMPACT series website features individual episodes, segments and web extras. Explore and access it anytime via

Broadband’s Impact on Economic Development: A Lack of Access to Social Capital

Regions across North Carolina have had significantly varying paces of economic development. Social capital levels offer one lens through which to view these regional disparities. Economic development of a given place can greatly depend on the presence and impact of social capital, which includes social culture, norms and collaboration that promote development activities and possible economic reform.

Social capital can be used and leveraged to achieve the goals of a collective group with an outcome of more economic capital due to connections. Social capital increases the efficiency of social exchange, allowing for communication and collaboration to occur. There are three types of social capital that can be leveraged: bonding, bridging, and linking. Bonding, or in group cohesion, refers to the relationships built among individuals with characteristics or group membership in common.  Bridging, or out of group cohesion, refers to relationships built among individuals, communities, or groups with differing background characteristics or group membership.  Linking is an extension of bridging capital and includes networks and organizations that provide connections across power dynamics, giving access to more resources.

North Carolina residents with no or low access to quality broadband are missing out on important economic benefits of cultivating social capital through connections (Unlocking the Digital Potential of Rural NC Report 2019). Bonding capital can occur through digital connections, bringing individuals of a group together to increase social connections within a group. Bridging capital could be improved by connectivity via broadband access, because many groups of different backgrounds have difficulty connecting face to face or may not even be in proximity to the other group but could greatly benefit from this relationship. Linking social capital is a way in which many communities connect to more powerful networks, allowing for access to thought leadership, information, and resource allocation through broadband access. Without access to this communication, community voices may be left out of the economic development process and therefore have unequal opportunities. Although economic growth will require extended access to Broadband to attract industries providing jobs, this also impacts communities’ ability to form and leverage social capital to improve economic development at all three levels: bonding, bridging, and linking.

In today’s advanced technological world, many connections occur in ways that are not face to face. Many technological platforms have been leveraged to create more efficient connections, which has strengthened the use of social capital for economic development. However, in the state of North Carolina, there is a broadband access rate of 68%, which is likely a conservative estimate. Full broadband access, a necessary utility to access and leverage social capital to improve economic conditions, holds a promise to increase economic mobility for both groups and entire communities.


American Community Survey 5-year estimates 2017: Access to Broadband

Laycock, K.E. & Mitchell, C.L. Climatic Change (2019) 152: 47. (graphic)

Shortage of Volunteer Firefighters

Did you know… Out of the 1,087 registered fire departments in North Carolina, more than 90% are volunteer or mostly volunteer departments? 

 The Challenge

Municipalities in North Carolina are struggling to recruit volunteer firefighters within their localities. This is likely due to a decrease in the time that residents have, as well as a decreasing interest in emergency services. As more people are finding themselves commuting to work, they are less likely to volunteer in any capacity. However, the most pressing issue for recruitment, is a lack of interest among young populations.

The Solution

When youth are introduced to firefighting curricula, they are more likely to engage as volunteers. This has led to an increase in educational opportunities about the work of firefighters, as well as training programs within schools. In Orange County, the best solution has been training those in high school and community college, which allows students to gain credits while also improving their community. Orange County’s programming for youth in the community has been very successful.

Orange County High School offers courses in three phases: “Fire Fighter Technology I, II, and III.  The completion of both Fire Fighter Technology I and II will cover modules required for all fire fighters in North Carolina.  Fire Fighter Technology I includes modules on Orientation & Safety, Health and Wellness, Portable Extinguishers, Foam Fire Streams, and Emergency Medical.  Fire Fighter Technology II includes modules on Building Construction, Ropes, Alarms & Communications, Forcible Entry, Ladders, Ventilation, and Loss Control.” This has allowed for students to get certified at a younger age, and to know what they want out of their careers sooner. Anywhere from eight to ten students will be involved during the semester.

By creating programming to recruit students to be volunteer firefighters, departments have been able to fill the gaps they have been seeing. Additionally, many schools have created junior firefighting programs, fire academies, and even fire camps for younger children. Bringing these two groups together is essential for success.

The Learning

As localities continue to push for an increase in the number of volunteer firefighters within their community, it will be essential to train folks at a young age. The sooner that kids and teenagers are in contact with fire education, the better. This will allow them to start considering volunteering in the present, as well as becoming a firefighter for their eventual occupation. Departments will need to consider new ways to reach youth in the community. One way to do this is through social media, whether that is through recruitment posts or “day in the life” videos. New and unique tools will be essential for recruitment and will ensure that the number of volunteer firefighters does not continue to decrease.

NC Strategic Economic Development Plan Post-Session Survey

Complete Post-Session Survey for Your Region by Nov. 15 to Inform the NC Strategic Economic Development Plan

Survey with Priorities & Data Profile Available for 8 Regions

On behalf of the North Carolina Department of Commerce, the ncIMPACT Initiative at the UNC School of Government hosted eight regional sessions to collect input from stakeholders across the state to inform North Carolina’s Strategic Economic Development Plan. Attendees engaged in a rich discourse and offered the insights identified in each region’s post-session survey.

Whether you attended the session or not, please complete the online survey and indicate your level of agreement with the statements provided. We want to hear from you about what works in your region and what additional supports from the state could maximize opportunities.

Please click here to see a complete list of regional sessions. You can access the data profile and post-session survey for each region by clicking on the Materials tab. For more information about this project, please watch this brief video.

Please share this information with other individuals who may be interested in participating. We synthesized participant feedback with emphasis on the items attendees noted were priorities for state support of the region. We want to ensure that we accurately report the specific priorities of the region. When you complete the post-session survey, you will have a chance to clarify items by adding details, nullify them by noting your disagreement, or amplify them by sending the survey to others for their feedback.

We are grateful for your participation in this important planning process for our state. We especially want to express our gratitude to the folks who hosted us in each region and made this work possible.


North Central NC Rural Center Oct. 1 Raleigh
Northeast Martin Community College Oct. 3 Williamston
Northwest Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute Oct. 29 Lenoir
Piedmont Triad Piedmont Triad Regional Council Oct. 9 Kernersville
Sandhills Fayetteville Technical Community College Sept. 26 Fayetteville
Southeast Sturgeon City Environmental Education Center Oct. 24 Jacksonville
Southwest City of Kannapolis Sept. 19 Kannapolis
Western Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Oct. 30 Cherokee


Renewable Energy in Rural Communities

Did you know… Eighteen percent of all electricity in the United States was produced by renewable sources in 2017, including solar, wind, and hydroelectric dams? That’s up from 15% in 2016!

 The Challenge

As society continues to modernize, more issues arise for government entities to address. Budget departments face the need to increase revenues, while the demand for services rises. Additionally, industries have been impacted by changes in specialization. Climate change is also continuing throughout the state as the coast experiences more natural disasters, and temperatures fluctuate. These are only a few of the struggles governments are working to solve, however, one possibility attempts to address these “wicked problems.”

 The Solution

Municipalities have the opportunity to change the way that they function by bringing renewable energy to their communities. Rural areas in North Carolina have brought in both solar and wind power, which benefits the revenue stream and assists in tackling climate change. Solar power companies will come into cities and provide their solar panels. As they become part of the community, they join the local economy, and their taxes highly benefit residents of these cities.



Wind power has also brought similar benefits to communities, while taking up less space. Some wind agencies have worked with farmers to ensure that turbines do not ruin the local industries. For example, they have implanted the devices in farmland, and worked with farmers to create space around the turbine for them to further their crop yield. It has allowed for greater crop growth and assisted in the fight against climate change.

The Network that Worked

In America, 55% of current investments into renewable energy go to rural counties due to their access to resources and smaller populations. Therefore, as more companies are looking to bring their business to rural areas, it is important that North Carolina stand apart. The Amazon Wind Farm alone brings in around $800 million in revenue to the state, so it is essential for the officials to assist in making North Carolina desirable for investors. Further, local government entities need to push folks to come to the area, if this is the way they choose to increase revenue. Additionally, researchers need to continue to disperse their findings to rural communities, so they can better analyze the costs and benefits to renewable energy in their localities.



The Learning

Cities or counties looking to bring renewable energy to their community will need to consider a variety of issues. First, the benefits of bringing renewable energy to your community, are that it: 1) addresses climate change, 2) improves public health, 3) an inexhaustible energy source, 4) provides jobs and other economic benefits, 5) creates stable energy prices, and 6) forms general reliability and reliance on renewables.

However, there are also some barriers that entities also need to be aware of: 1) negotiations and deals with renewable companies, 2) fluctuations in property values and population, and 3) general fights from opponents. Consideration will be necessary, but after an appropriate analysis, real change can be seen in rural communities that bring in renewables.

Downtown Development in Kinston, NC

Did you know… From July 2011 to June 2017, Lenoir County has invested 288.6 million in economic development and created 1,236 jobs during the process?

 The Challenge

As municipalities in North Carolina lose residents due to a decrease in demand for certain industries, cities are searching for innovative ways to recruit new people to the area. Kinston was struggling to maintain city networks after the 2008 financial crisis, and the decline of their tobacco industry. People had lost their sense of community, and their ties to the area. Kinston was searching for an ideal solution and found that the best way for them to recruit new residents while retaining old ones was through downtown development.

 The Solution

Kinston is as a unique example for rural areas looking to reinvigorate their communities and economies. Small businesses in the area have partnered with the local leaders to create changes that will benefit the town in a variety of ways. One such example of this is Kinston’s Planning Department revolving loan program that allows for entrepreneurs to come to the area, while also contributing to the economy of the city.

The Network that Worked

Kinston has relied on its networks to push downtown development forward. Community members note that it has been so successful due to the involvement of government leaders, main street directors, business and property owners, developers, and anyone willing to take on a leadership role. In a town of roughly 20,000 people this has led to a high investment of those living there. Public-private partnerships have created a downtown that many people are excited to move to, baby boomers and millennials alike.

Businesses in Kinston have highlighted that the most crucial part of their involvement has been remaining complementary to each other, and not becoming overly competitive. Each business sees themselves as part of a unit in the downtown district, working to build others up, instead of tearing them down. This uplifting nature has allowed businesses to thrive and remain in the area, which furthers the economy and investment in the downtown district.

The Learning

There have been a variety of takeaways for Kinston that any municipality looking to further their downtown development will need to know. First, any city looking to do this will need to have a full understanding of their existing assets, as well as the values of the residents. Knowing your assets allows you to get a clear picture of what development could turn into, and what needs to be updated in the process. Additionally, if development is not something your residents and business owners are looking for, it will be difficult to get folks on board.

Not only will understanding the values of the existing community be essential for the process, but you will also want to gain an understanding of populations coming to the area. What will stand out to them about your community? Lastly, public-private partnerships will need to be created and utilized throughout the process. Kinston’s partnerships have allowed the city to grow in unique ways, and to thrive in the economic climate today.




First Stop for Regional Sessions: Kannapolis

Regional Sessions Begin to Inform the North Carolina Strategic Economic Development Plan


On September 19, 2019, the ncIMPACT Initiative hosted the first of eight Regional Sessions to Inform the North Carolina Strategic Economic Development Plan on behalf of the North Carolina Department of Commerce. A session is available in each of the state’s prosperity zones. Please click here to see a complete list of regional sessions and register for the one you choose to attend.


For more information about this project and what you can expect at the regional sessions, please watch this brief video.


The regional sessions will be critical to creating the state’s new strategic economic development plan, which will guide policymakers and practitioners in their work to generate more economic prosperity to the state. We want to hear from you about what works in your region and what additional supports from the state could maximize opportunities. We expect rich discussions with a gathering of diverse stakeholders.


We started our first session in the beautiful Laureate Center with an inspiring message from Mayor Darrell Hinnant of Kannapolis.


We described the process and proposed themes for the plan, then provided a regional data profile for the Southwest Region and received very helpful feedback. One interesting data piece that elicited a lot of conversation was the rate of eligible children not being served with childcare assistance.



These numbers by county can be found here:


We are grateful to local leaders in the Southwest Region who participated. To register for one of the remaining regional sessions, please follow this link:

Rural Transportation Challenges- Hertford and Bertie Counties

Did you know…In the 2009 American Housing Survey, public transit was available to only 13% of rural residents compared to the national average of 57%?

 The Challenge

Rural communities across the nation are struggling to provide transit to their residents. With an aging population and a lack of public transportation infrastructure, rural residents often cannot get to the places they need, particularly their medical appointments. The consequences can be dire. For example, there are people who are unable to make it to ongoing dialysis treatments. A study done by The American Public Transportation Association confirms the need for medical transport, as they found that nearly 9% of public transit riders in small urban and rural areas were going to receive medical services.

The team at ncIMPACT looked at this issue in Hertford and Bertie counties in North Carolina.

The Solution

Hertford and Bertie counties have developed a program, called TRIP, that serves as an “Uber style” mode of transportation for residents. No light rail, no buses, just cars and vans. In this episode of ncIMPACT, Choanoke Public Transportation Authority, or CPTA, works with Bertie and Hertford counties to provide individual local rides to residents and a shuttle to medical centers in Greenville during the week. This allows residents to make it to essential medical appointments and other related activities, including scheduled exercise programs. Residents using the service are required to pay $1.00 to assist in subsidizing the cost of their transportation.

 The Network that Worked

Those employed by Hertford and Bertie counties as well as the CPTA, worked to engage other organizations in participating in the program. They worked to bring in local “mom and pop” companies with new transportation options. Bringing in organizations that residents already trusted furthered the use of the program and has allowed it to continue. However, that process was not easy. One of the most difficult aspects of working with stakeholders has been keeping everyone connected and ensuring that all participants were involved. However, there also needs to be further centralization around providers, such as the creation of employee-sponsored vanpools or other point-to-point systems. Simplifying the process will make it easier for organizations and stakeholders.

 The Learning

The transportation challenges faced by residents of Hertford and Bertie Counties are faced by those in many rural communities.  To respond effectively, communities must engage essential stakeholders and build trust among them. County and city governmental entities will need to be involved to engage regional transportation authorities. In addition, due to the need for some level of funding, local leaders will need to be willing to make a direct financial investment or seek grants and bonds on the local, state, and federal level. On the other hand, the private sector may offer creative options for transportation, healthcare providers with significant incentive to innovate, and civic organizations that are driven by mission to resolve the challenge.

Finally, no community can forget to involve those who will be using the service. If they are not involved, then the solution will not serve them as well as it should. Local groups and agencies need to get involved so that their members’ voices can be heard. Additionally, local officials need to work to include those who are not in these organizations. When all parties involved are included, there will be a higher likelihood for success.

Accountable Care Communities Offer An Opportunity to Address Healthcare Disparities at the Systems Level

In a previous blog post, which you can find here, ncIMPACT shared information around NCCARE 360, an interdisciplinary referral tool being implemented in the state of North Carolina’s medical care systems. As we continue to research impacts of the health of a community, we find it increasingly important to look at the way data around how changes become integrated with existing cultural norms and daily lives of community members in North Carolina. NCCARE 360 is part of an effort to implement a model of Accountable Care Communities (ACCs).


ACCs aim to address health at the community level through addressing the social drivers of health and looks at health on a systems level to better coordinate healthcare with a wide variety of stakeholders within a community. This coordination includes involving non-traditional partners in health initiatives, such as faith communities and academic researchers. ACCs have an underlying value of authentic community engagement. In the context of the ACC model, it is not enough to go into communities and give out information. Stakeholders must work alongside communities to create a power dynamic that gives community members agency and self-determination. Under the ACC model, the goal is to elevate the voices of community members who are most impacted by health disparities. For example, specific race groups are more likely to experience disparities within population health–those voices need to be amplified within this model.



Health Inequities by Race

In fact, the data suggests that many health initiatives have historically neglected or taken advantage of specific race populations, such as the Native American and African American communities (see Black-White Disparities in Health Care Report, released by the American Medical Association[1]). Racial disparities in health begin even at the stage of conception. African American babies are more than twice as likely to die during childbirth than white or Hispanic babies in North Carolina. While white babies die at a rate of 5.4% in North Carolina (comparable to the Hispanic rate of 5.5%), Black babies die at a rate of 12.4% (see figure below from NCDHHS).



Maternal mortality rates are alarming in general, but when analyzed by race, it is evident that Black mothers have a totally different experience during pregnancy and childbirth than their racial counterparts. In 2013, in the state of North Carolina, the maternal mortality rates for Black and white women was almost the same, with the white racial category making a large jump up in rates and the Black racial category briefly falling. However, since then, the numbers have since diverged once more. Today, a Black woman in North Carolina is 3x as likely to die from giving birth than a white woman. From 1999-2013, Black women accounted for 49% of the deaths due to childbirth in the state of North Carolina, while African Americans make up 22% of the state’s population (

While working with the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust on their targeted health strategies, our interviews with experts repeatedly brought up the importance of cultural competency at the systems level to address disparity. For example, one anonymous interviewee we spoke with mentions struggles with healthcare perceptions for older African American men:

“He grew up in a time where he knew studies were being done on Black people. Telling him he needs to go to the doctor brings up distrust for him. Entering into those large facilities, he’s not inclined to do that. He needs a provider that looks like him and be able to come to a place that feels safe.”


These disparities are alarming and to begin addressing these health inequalities, research and reports indicate that strategically culturally appropriate care, community capacity building, and homegrown community leader involvement will all need to be present as a start to making the state’s health system more culturally appropriate. These non-traditional partnerships implemented in Accountable Care Communities will require a breaking down of walls for everyone involved–silos will need to be removed for an integrated community care system.

For more guidance on implementing the ACC model, please see the following guide, provided by Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust and Duke Endowment, visit







ncIMPACT Town Hall on the Economic Impact of Outdoor Recreation


The broadcast will also air on the NC Channel on June 27th at 9pm and will on June 30th at 2pm.

The ncIMPACT Initiative at the UNC School of Government partnered with Western Carolina University, Mountain Biz Works, UNC-TV, and Civic Federal Credit Union to highlight efforts in Southwestern NC to leverage natural resources for economic development. The broadcast will offer a great way to help leaders in other regions of our state better understand the outdoor economy in Southwestern NC by covering the economic impact of outdoor recreation, stewardship of natural resources, and strategies to stimulate the outdoor economy.

“The outdoor economy refers to the money that is made and spent around activities that take place in nature.”

Panelists for the ncIMPACT Town Hall at Western Carolina University include:

  • Jeremy Hyatt, Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians
  • Barry Jones, U.S. Forest Service
  • Lisa Leatherman, Duke Energy
  • Cory McCall, Outdoor 76
  • Arthur Salido, Western Carolina University
  • Sarah Thompson, Southwestern Commission

“People underestimate the size and scale of the industry,” according to panelist Arthur Salido, executive director for community and economic engagement and innovation at Western Carolina University. “[F]or hundreds of years Western North Carolina was the playground for the Southeast…now it’s really a national and international destination.”

Read more from Blue Ridge Outdoors:

“Outfitters have sprouted from the pastoral banks of the North Fork to urban stretches of the French Broad. Mountain communities are reinventing themselves to attract hikers, mountain bikers, and climbers. Revamped downtowns across the region are complete with microbreweries and Airbnbs. And the region’s national forests and state parks are being reimagined not just as weekend getaways but as economic support systems for small towns and entire states alike…A recent report by the Outdoor Alliance found that the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests—just two of more than ten national forests across the larger Appalachian region—host 4.6 million visitors annually and plug $115 million into local economies each year.”

These ongoing statewide ncIMPACT Town Hall events enhance the weekly ncIMPACT series. Just as we take ncIMPACT into communities, tackling problems head on by meeting with bold, positive change agents, the ncIMPACT town halls serve as a convening for a region’s residents, businesses, non-profits and government organizations to share their stories, ideas and solutions.

ncIMPACT is designed to get North Carolinians excited about these opportunities for creating positive change in their communities and in North Carolina. In addition to over-the-air broadcasts, explore ncIMPACT online anytime at The site features individual episodes, segments and web extras.


Older posts

© 2020 Copyright,
The University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑