NC Senate Proposes Defunding Rural Center

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Guest Editorial from Rural Center President Billy Ray Hall

I was as shocked as everyone else to see a proposed Senate budget that eliminates all state funding for the Rural Economic Development Center and re-creates key center programs in two state departments.  The budget seriously shortchanges the people of rural North Carolina. The Rural Center has a proven, 26-year history of creating jobs, improving infrastructure and providing access to clean water in the state’s 85 rural counties. By removing all state funding from the center, the budget seeks to abolish the one organization dedicated exclusively to delivering a full range of financial resources and technical assistance to rural communities.

As the budget process moves forward, we look to House Speaker Thom Tillis and the House of Representatives to craft a budget that reinstates center funding and best serves the 4.7 million rural people of this state.

Why the center is important to North Carolina’s rural communities

The Rural Center is the only statewide body focused exclusively on the economic challenges and opportunities of the state’s 85 rural counties.

The center has delivered more than $600 million in financial resources to rural communities since 1987. More than 33,000 jobs have been created and more than 4,500 business have expanded.

The center’s grants have leveraged more than $2 billion in other public and private investments.

91 percent of the center’s appropriations directly aid local communities.

The center’s job-generating grants have created one job for every $5,700 in grant funding.

Projects funded by clean water grants (two-thirds of the total) serve more than 2 million customers.

Rural communities continue to face daunting challenges from long-term economic restructuring, natural disasters and recession. They need a dependable, proven partner for progress.  Read More.

Billy Ray Hall has served as president of the Rural Center since its founding in 1987. Prior to joining the center, Hall served as deputy director of the N.C. Department of Natural Resources and Community Development and chief economist for the Office of State Planning. Former Gov. James B. Hunt Jr. twice appointed Hall to lead state disaster recovery efforts, following Hurricane Fran in 1996 and Hurricane Floyd in 1999.