Cooper announces new rural development effort
BY LINDELL JOHN KAY
Saturday, February 3, 2018
Gov. Roy Cooper said his time growing up in Nash County is why he's rolling out a new initiative to help rural counties boost their economies.
Cooper announced on Thursday the launch of Hometown Strong to help rural counties build roads, expand high-speed internet and provide job skills training.
The program is meant to cut through red tape to find funding from state, federal and nonprofit sources.
Cooper said state government needs to work efficiently and keep open lines of communication with local governments.
"Small towns and rural communities like mine offer special opportunities for so many families," Cooper said. "I want them to prosper."
Cooper said strong people who are driven by purpose and committed to working together, neighbor helping neighbor, can be found in rural North Carolina.
"You will find local farms like I used to work on and family-owned businesses like I used to own," Cooper said. "You’ll find space to breathe, more affordable living and a pace of life that gives you time to enjoy it. Signs of faith, family and community are everywhere."
Cooper said his commitment to rural North Carolina is personal.
"I understand the opportunities and challenges our rural communities face," Cooper said. "And my administration is making them a priority."
Cooper said he'll bring state agencies into partnership with local leaders and stakeholders to create lasting improvements to rural economies by using resources that may already be available.
“Helping rural North Carolina thrive is one of my top priorities,” Cooper said. “Families in rural communities aren’t looking for mandates from Raleigh — they want state government to listen and help when asked. We’ll listen to local leaders to make sure they’re getting the support they need to help their communities prosper.”
Through existing and new partnerships with local leaders from government, business, nonprofit organizations, the philanthropic community and others, Hometown Strong will seek to leverage state and local resources to help complete local development projects, convene conversations between state and local agencies and identify long-term projects that can encourage prosperity in rural communities.
N.C. Rep. Pryor Gibson of Wadesboro and Spring Hope attorney Mary Penny Kelley, a former assistant attorney general with the N.C. Department of Justice, have been named to lead the initiative.
“When you face a challenge in small towns like mine, you solve it by bringing everyone around the table,” Gibson said. “That’s an idea that state government could use more of.”
Initial partnerships between rural counties and Hometown Strong will be announced this spring.