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RALEIGH – The NC Rural Center has received a grant from the Golden LEAF Foundation to partner with the Friday Institute to help one North Carolina region broaden its leadership base, enhance community and regional collaborations, and develop more strategic initiatives to transform the economy.

The initiative will build a diverse regional leadership team in the state’s Northeast Prosperity Zone and provide coaching to cross-county project teams to identify untapped regional opportunities for economic growth and development.

The Rural Center will support the leadership and project teams by helping them identify opportunities and unmet needs through a gap analysis that will engage a diverse cohort of county and regional stakeholders from the public, nonprofit, and business sectors.

“Golden LEAF has identified capacity building as a key need in the communities we were created to serve,” said Dan Gerlach, president of the Golden LEAF Foundation. “The mission and expertise of the Rural Center and the Friday Institute make them great partners for this important effort. We know that this initiative will inform our work all across the state.”

The results of the work will enable the region to better compete for other national, state, and private resources, including strengthening the quality and reach of grant proposals for Golden LEAF’s anticipated 2018-19 Community Based Grant Initiative (CBGI) in the Northeast Prosperity Zone.

Golden LEAF’s CBGI supports the building blocks of economic growth in local communities, focusing on communities in one or two Prosperity Zones at a time. CBGI focuses on projects that address agriculture, education, workforce development, economic development, public infrastructure, and health care. The competitive application process is designed to identify projects that are ready for implementation at the award date and have the potential to have significant local economic impact.

The Rural Center will call upon its 30-year history of leadership training and community engagement in rural North Carolina to work with leaders in the Northeast Prosperity Zone to build the partnerships that can do the most good for the most people. The Friday Institute for Educational Innovation at NCSU will partner with the Rural Center to provide project and program evaluation tools to measure regional progress.

“The single most important factor in the future of rural communities is the presence of highly-skilled, highly-motivated leaders who are committed to bringing about positive change in today’s challenging economic environment,” said Rural Center President Patrick Woodie.

Rural Center coaches will identify the core team of regional leaders that will participate in leadership training events starting in early 2018. The Rural Center will then work with the core leadership team to identify 18-20 smaller cross-county teams that will develop high-quality CBGI proposals.

“In order to move communities forward, a broad base of leadership must be developed so they can seek out the appropriate opportunities and implement the effective strategies that advance economic growth,” said Rural Center Director of Leadership Misty Herget.

Counties in the Northeast Prosperity Zone include:


For 30 years, the NC Rural Center has worked to develop, promote, and implement sound economic strategies to improve the quality of life of rural North Carolinians. The Center serves the state’s 80 rural counties, with a special focus on individuals with low to moderate incomes and communities with limited resources.

The Golden LEAF Foundation is a nonprofit organization established in 1999 to help transform North Carolina’s economy. The Foundation receives a portion of North Carolina’s funds from the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement with cigarette manufacturers and places special emphasis on assisting tobacco-dependent, economically distressed and/or rural communities across the state. The Golden LEAF Foundation works in partnership with governmental entities, educational institutions, economic development organizations and nonprofits to achieve its mission. The foundation has awarded 1,526 grants worth over $766 million since its inception. To learn more about applying for a grant, visit or call 888.684.8404.

The mission of the William & Ida Friday Institute for Educational Innovation at NC State’s College of Education is to advance education through innovation in teaching, learning, and leadership. Bringing together educational professionals, researchers, policy-makers, and other community members, the Friday Institute is a center for fostering collaborations to improve education. We conduct research, develop educational resources, provide professional development programs for educators, advocate to improve teaching and learning, and help inform policy-making. Visit to learn more.

Todd Brantley
Senior Director of Public Affairs
NC Rural Center