Last spring, Patrick Woodie and John Coggin set out on a quest: visit each of the 80 counties served by the Rural Center and meet with community leaders – elected officials, business leaders, health care workers, educators, and civic champions – to hear what was going well, and what major issues need to be tackled by a statewide network of rural advocates.
We have hosted meetings in every corner of the state, from Murphy to Sparta to Bolivia to Nags Head. What have we learned? North Carolina’s rural communities are vibrant places, brimming with entrepreneurs creating opportunity, teachers helping launch the next generation, and leaders passionate about making their communities better places.
We’ve also found that while every county is distinct, there are many unifying struggles. Access to affordable high-speed internet is a hindrance to development in almost every county we’ve visited. The need for qualified teachers, capable health care professionals, and workforce housing touches most every community.
Our goal by the end of this journey was to have a deeper sense of the county-level nuances of the issues facing rural North Carolina, as well as to have identified areas in which the Rural Center can be most effective at gathering rural citizens to speak up for statewide solutions.
We have accomplished our goal by finishing this tour in April. Stay tuned for more information about what we learned.
Director of Advocacy