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Since 1987, the Rural Center has worked to improve the quality of life for the state’s rural people and places.

We operate with the core belief that our rural communities have inherent cultural value and are vital to the overall economic health of our state. We recognize that the changing landscape of rural North Carolina brings with it significant challenges, but we also believe in the resiliency of our state’s rural people and their dedicated stewardship of the communities they call home.

NC Rural Center

North Carolina Counties


Rural Counties

78 counties with an average population density of 250 people per square mile or less. 

Regional City & Suburban Counties

16 counties with an average population density between 250 and 750 per square mile.

Urban Counties

6 counties with an average population density that exceeds 750 people per square mile.

Densities calculated by the Rural Center based on the 2020 U.S. Census.


Our Mission

The NC Rural Center’s mission is to develop, promote, and implement sound economic strategies to improve the quality of life of rural North Carolinians. We serve the state’s 78 rural counties, with a special focus on individuals with low to moderate incomes and communities with limited resources.

Our Core Values

We are committed to living into the following values as essential to our success and the success of the communities we serve:

  • Strive for Excellence – By continuously learning, improving, and working collaboratively with government, education, philanthropy, business, faith, and grassroots communities to leverage resources and develop innovative solutions, we can affect meaningful change.
  • Promote Authentic Leadership – By cultivating authentic leaders in and outside of the Center, we build trust, credibility, and help residents of rural North Carolina take their communities to the next level.
  • Lead with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion – By acknowledging that unjust structures and policies have resulted in historical and systemic oppression and committing ourselves to being a more racially and economically just organization, we will set a precedent for other committed organizations to follow suit. We invite you to read more about our journey and commitment to DEI work here.
  • Deliver Meaningful and Measurable Impact – By placing our focus on the achievement of long-term and sustainable results, there is a greater chance that our activities will lead to noticeable impact within our communities.
NC Rural Center