For immediate release (8/29/2012)
Contact: Garnet Bass, director of communications, 919-250-4314
RALEIGH -- The N.C. Rural Economic Development Center and partnering organizations will launch an intensive effort this fall to stimulate manufacturing growth in a six-county region of eastern North Carolina.
The long-term project will focus on strengthening aerospace and automotive manufacturing in Lenoir, Greene, Wayne, Wilson, Edgecombe and Pitt counties.
The Industrial Extension Service of N.C. State University and the N.C. Small Business and Technology Development Center of the University of North Carolina System will partner with the Rural Center to provide technical assistance to new and existing businesses. North Carolina’s Eastern Regional Partnership, an economic development group, also is collaborating on the project.
The effort is made possible by a $715,000 grant through the federal Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge of the U.S. Commerce and Agriculture departments. Officials in Washington announced the grant earlier this month.
“Manufacturing has long played a critical role in the rural economy and will continue to do so,” Rural Center President Billy Ray Hall said. “But the factories of tomorrow will be different from what we’ve known in the past. With this grant, the Rural Center and its partners will be able to put in place a comprehensive model of support services to strengthen and grow the manufacturing base of the future. While we will concentrate this work in six counties, we will share what we learn so that all of rural North Carolina benefits.”
The project will focus on four strategies: helping companies adopt advanced manufacturing practices, connecting more local companies in the supply chains of large manufacturers, enhancing workforce skills and support for entrepreneurs, and helping regional organizations identify and obtain financial support for their own efforts to build aerospace and automotive industries.
In addition to the federal grant funding, the Rural Center has committed over $2 million in grants and business capital to support the project’s goals.
Within six years, these combined efforts are expected to assist over 200 businesses, create 650 jobs and leverage $5 million in private sector investments.
North Carolina organizations received two of the 13 grants under the federal challenge announced Wednesday in Washington. The second North Carolina grant, for an agribusiness project, went to a partnership of the AdvantageWest regional development and Land-of-Sky Regional Council of Governments.
The N.C. Rural Economic Development Center is a private, nonprofit organization whose mission is to develop sound economic strategies that improve the quality of life in rural North Carolina, with a special focus on individuals with low to moderate incomes and communities with limited resources. The center operates a multifaceted program that includes conducting research into rural issues; testing promising rural development strategies; advocating for policy and program innovations; and building the productive capacity of rural leaders, entrepreneurs and community organizations.