A year after a scathing audit threw the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center into turnmoil, officials with the agency are looking for ways to shape a new role and future.
The N.C. General Assembly stripped the Rural Center of state funding after a 2013 audit uncovered poor bookkeeping practices and raised questions about the effectiveness of millions of dollars awarded in grants to help fledgling companies in rural parts of North Carolina.
Lawmakers sharply criticized also the salary, severance package and retirement benefits plan of the center’s former director, Billy Ray Hall.
Lost in the sound and fury over the center’s poor decision-making was the fact that it has performed good works in places like the Twin Counties.
Small companies have been able to grow their markets and expand their facilities through grants awarded by the Rural Center.
The N.C. Department of Commerce has since taken over those functions and the money that had allowed the center to help other areas.
Now, center officials hope to find a new way to serve rural North Carolina. The center has put together an online survey to help determine the needs of the areas it serves. If you’re interested in participating, you can take the survey at www.survey monkey.com/s/Rural_Partners.
Responses are due by Friday.
Rural Center officials say they’ll report back in October with a new plan to determine “the scope and delivery of future programs and services.”
We can only hope the Rural Center’s efforts pay off with a new resource for growing companies and jobs. Rural North Carolina desperately needs the help.