Rural Planning

Part of the NC Main Street & Rural Planning Center, the Rural Planning program works with local governments and other organizations in rural areas to provide strategic economic development planning and implementation services, technical support, and training. Such services help communities prepare for and respond to economic growth opportunities in ways that improve quality of life and prosperity, build community capacity, and maintain rural character. 

Services

Tab/Accordion Item

Rural Planning program staff located in North Carolina’s eight Prosperity Zones facilitate economic development planning for communities and have developed relationships with local leaders in all 100 counties.

Prosperity Zone planners work in all state regions:

  • West (Sylva)
  • Northwest (Morganton)
  • Piedmont-Triad (Winston-Salem)
  • Southwest (Albemarle)
  • North Central (Clayton)
  • Sandhills/South Central (Fayetteville)
  • Northeast (Greenville)
  • Southeast (Morehead City). 

The map below shows contact information for Prosperity Zone planners. Other Rural Planning program staff are based in Asheville, Raleigh, and Wilmington.

Map of North Carolina's Prosperity Zones

Darren Rhodes, CPM 
Rural Planning Program Administrator
Community Economic Development Planner, Piedmont-Triad Prosperity Zone
525 Vine Street, Suite 240
Winston-Salem, NC 27101
Email:    drhodes@commerce.nc.gov
Cell:       (336) 618-5117

Ann Bass
ARC Community Economic Development Planner, Western Prosperity Zone
253 Webster Road
Sylva, NC 28779
Email:   ann.bass@commerce.nc.gov
Cell:      (828) 508-0107
Read Ann’s Profile

Kyle Case
ARC Community Economic Development Planner, Northwest Prosperity Zone
720 E. Union Street, Morganton, NC
Email:  kyle.case@commerce.nc.gov
Cell:     (984) 275-5209

Jeff Emory
Community Economic Development Planner, Southwest Prosperity Zone
615 Concord Road
Albemarle, NC 28001
Email:     jeff.emory@commerce.nc.gov
Cell:        (704) 984-3666
Read Jeff’s Profile

Grace Lawrence
Community Economic Development Planner, Sandhills (South Central) Prosperity Zone
490 McPherson Church Road
Fayetteville, NC 28303
Email:   grace.lawrence@commerce.nc.gov
Cell:      (910) 391-1298

Glen Locascio
GIS Analyst
48 Grove Street
Asheville, NC 28801
Email:    glocascio@@commerce.nc.gov
Office:   (828) 251-6200, ext. 224

Bruce Naegelen
Community Economic Development Planner, North Central Prosperity Zone
8998 US 70 Hwy Business West, Suite 100
Clayton, NC 27520
Email:    bruce.naegelen@commerce.nc.gov
Cell:       (984) 365-0279
Read Bruce’s Profile

Lee Padrick
Chief Planner
Community Economic Development Planner, Northeast Prosperity Zone
105 Pactolus Hwy. (NC 330
Greenville, NC 27835 (physical address)
PO Box 1587
Greenville, NC 27835 (mailing address)
Email:    lpadrick@commerce.nc.gov
Cell:       (252) 565-2060
Read Lee’s Profile

Karen Smith, AICP
Coordinator, Rural Solutions
48 Grove Street
Asheville, NC 28801
Email:    ksmith@commerce.nc.gov
Cell:       (828) 747-1585

Amy Suggs
Community Economic Development Planner, Southeast Prosperity Zone
3813 Arendell Street
Morehead City, NC 28540
Email:    amy.suggs@commerce.nc.gov
Cell:       (910) 530-0278

Mark Zeigler, AICP
Community Economic Development Planner
127 Cardinal Drive Extension
Wilmington, NC 28405
Email:    mzeigler@commerce.nc.gov
Office:   (910) 796-7268
Cell:       (910) 632-4011

Full NC Main Street & Rural Planning Center Staff Directory (PDF)

Strategic Economic Development Planning & Implementation Services

Community Economic Recovery and Resiliency Initiative (CERRI) 

Click on link in bulleted list, above, to go to CERRI tab for more information.

Creating Outdoor Recreation Economies (CORE)

Click on link in bulleted list, above, to go to CORE tab for more information.

Community Economic Development Assessment Program (CEDAP)

Purpose:  The CEDAP is a short-term, efficient assessment to "jump-start" communities' economic development efforts by providing action items. These action items help communities achieve tangible outputs and outcomes in a short period of time, at minimal cost.

Process:  A CEDAP is developed based on needs identified from meetings, visits, and telephone calls with the town, city, or county unit of government (local government). Staff from the Rural Planning Program (RPP) of the NC Main Street & Rural Planning Center will conduct the assessment. Typically, three community visits will be needed, with participation by the local government staff and an established local work group. All meetings, including a community tour, can be held remotely (via teleconference). The RPP is available for technical assistance, facilitation, and other services the community may need as it implements CEDAP action items.

Deliverables:  The local government will receive a final report containing data and information, such as a community economic snapshot, considered during the assessment. The report will summarize results of activities conducted during the assessment including community asset mapping, identification of economic drivers, SWOT analysis, stakeholder interviews, business questionnaires, and local work group discussions. The report will also provide action items the community can achieve within a one- to two-year timeframe. The community can build upon the CEDAP to formulate and achieve additional goals in future years.

Outcomes and Impacts:  The CEDAP adds value to a community’s economic development efforts by developing consensus around the most important issues to be addressed and by creating specific actions on how they will be addressed and by whom. Examples of measurable impacts of such actions may include economic investment (public/private), jobs created/retained, new businesses recruited/started, and/or new (or expansion of existing) economic development programs or initiatives started.

For more information about the Rural Planning program's services or to discuss your community's specific needs, please contact Darren Rhodes, Rural Planning Program Manager, at drhodes@commerce.nc.gov, or the Prosperity Zone planner assigned to your region.

Five-Year Economic Development Strategic Plans (EDSP) and Program Development

Purpose: The Five-Year EDSP is a longer-term guide that reflects a community’s goals for building and growing its economy and establishes a path for doing so. The EDSP timeframe is five years, and the plan should include a visioning (economic positioning) statement, strategies with goals, objectives, and actions, an implementation plan, and a monitoring and evaluation process.

Process:  Staff of the NC Main Street & Rural Planning Center’s Rural Planning Program (RPP) will facilitate the EDSP development process with participation by the town, city, or county unit of government (local government) and an established local work group. The planning process will include presentations of economic and other data as well as activities such as asset mapping, identification of economic drivers, SWOT analysis, stakeholder interviews, business questionnaires, and local work group discussions. Typically, the process takes three to five meetings, and works best if the local work group meets regularly to maintain the interest and focus of its members. All meetings, including a community tour, can be held remotely (via teleconference). The RPP is available for technical assistance, facilitation, and other services the community may need as it develops and implements its plan.

Deliverables:  The local government will receive a Five-Year EDSP, with a community vision (economic positioning statement), strategies, goals, and objectives, plus a One-Year Implementation Plan with actions the community intends to take over a 12-month period to ensure the goals and objectives are reached. The RPP recommends the community establish a monitoring and evaluation process to track plan implementation progress.

Outcomes and Impacts:  The EDSP adds value to a community’s economic development efforts by developing consensus around the most important issues to be addressed and by creating specific actions on how they will be addressed and by whom. Measurable outcomes from a successfully implemented EDSP may include economic investment (public/private), jobs created/retained, new businesses recruited/started, and/or new (or expansion of existing) economic development programs or initiatives started.

For more information about the Rural Planning program's services or to discuss your community's specific needs, please contact Darren Rhodes, Rural Planning Program Manager, at drhodes@commerce.nc.gov, or the Prosperity Zone planner assigned to your region.

One-Day Action Planning Workshops

Purpose:  A One-Day Action Planning Workshop facilitates a conversation between local economic development leaders to identify and prioritize areas of focus, develop consensus around goals, and create implementation actions. It works best in communities that have an established economic development program with identified leaders interested in developing consensus on goals and actions for a specified period. It is not intended to be comprehensive or long-range, or to address community services beyond economic development.

Process:  Staff of the NC Main Street & Rural Planning Center’s Rural Planning Program (RPP) will facilitate a one day (four to six-hour) strategic action planning session with local economic development leaders and stakeholders. The Action Planning Workshop can be held remotely (via teleconference). The RPP is available for technical assistance and other services the community may need as it develops and implements its Action Plan.

Deliverables:  The community will receive a report summarizing the Action Planning Workshop and an Economic Development Action Plan outlining short-term focus areas, goals, and implementation actions. The RPP recommends the community monitor and evaluate its Action Plan implementation progress.

Outcomes and Impacts:  The One-Day Action Planning Workshop adds value to a community’s economic development program by helping it develop consensus around short-term actions to maintain a strong, diverse local economy which provides job opportunities, enhances the local tax base, and improves quality of life. Measurable outcomes from a One-Day Action Planning Workshop and implementation of the resulting Action Plan include economic investment (public/private), jobs created/retained, new businesses recruited/started, and/or new (or expansion of existing) economic development programs or initiatives started.

For more information about the Rural Planning program's services or to discuss your community's specific needs, please contact Darren Rhodes, Rural Planning Program Manager, at drhodes@commerce.nc.gov, or the Prosperity Zone planner assigned to your region.

Technical Assistance

The Rural Planning program provides technical assistance to local governments and their partners, including local, regional, state, federal, public-private and non-profit agencies, organizations, and institutions, to support community economic development planning and decision-making.

  • Community Economic Opportunities Mapping and Analysis
  • Local Policy and Ordinance Review Related to Economic Opportunities
  • Planning Assistance Related to Economic Development
  • GIS Mapping and Analysis

Training & Education

Rural Solutions Workshop Series

The NC Main Street & Rural Planning Center’s Rural Planning program developed its Rural Solutions Workshop Series - Best Practices for Small Town Economic Development to provide the state’s smaller and resource-limited rural communities with information and tools to help them grow their local economies.

The first workshop in the series, Recruiting Retail Businesses, offered tools and tips on evaluating local markets, identifying types of businesses to attract, locating appropriate land for development, and communicating with prospective businesses, including regional and national chains. Biscoe hosted the workshop in January 2019 and Smithfield hosted it in Setpember 2019. Thanks to the support of partners, from knowledgeable workshop speakers to generous host communities, the Rural Planning program was able to offer the workshops at no cost to participants.

Below are materials from the Recruiting Retail Businesses workshop held in Smithfield in September 2019.   

Workshop

Date

Materials

Recruiting Retail Businesses - Smithfield

09/26/2019

Agenda

Presentation Slides (1 per page)

Presentation Slides (2 per page)

NC Main Street & Rural Planning Center - Rural Planning Program Overview

NC Department of Commerce Grants & Incentives

Funding Opportunities

NC Department of Commerce: Rural Economic Development Division (REDD)

Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC)

ARC supports economic development activities in 31 North Carolina counties: Alexander, Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Buncombe, Burke, Caldwell, Catawba, Cherokee, Clay, Cleveland, Davie, Forsyth, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Stokes, Surry, Swain, Transylvania, Watauga, Wilkes, Yadkin, and Yancey counties.

Community Development Block Grants (CDBG)

The Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) team, part of our Rural Economic Development Division, administers several federally-funded grant programs: Building Reuse program, using CDBG-Economic Development funds, Public Infrastructure grants, also from CDBG-Economic Development funds, Demolition grants, Disaster Recovery funds, including support to help communities deal with the COVID-19 coronavirusCommunity Housing Grants

NC Main Street & Rural Planning Center

The NC Main Street & Rural Planning Center works in regions, counties, cities, towns, downtown districts, and in designated North Carolina Main Street communities, to inspire placemaking through building asset-based economic development strategies that achieve measurable results such as investment, business growth, and jobs.  The NC Main Street & Rural Planning Center maintains a comprehensive grant funding guide (21 pages), available below.

Comprehensive Grant Funding and Resource Guide

Rural Grant Programs

The Rural Grant Programs team, part of our Rural Economic Development Division, administers several state-funded grant programs: The state Rural Building Reuse program, state Public Infrastructure grants, state Demolition grants, special, legislatively directed grants to local governments for downtown revitalization and economic development from 2017, 2018 and 2019, 2016 Disaster Recovery funds, Rural Housing Recovery Infrastructure Program.

Rural Transformation Grant Fund (NEW)

The Rural Transformation Grant Fund provides local governments with grants and expert guidance to improve economic vitality and overcome the unique challenges many rural communities face.  Open to local governments in the state's Tier 1 and Tier 2 counties, as well as qualified census tracts in Tier 3 counties.

Rural Transformation Grants can support:

  • Main Street and downtown investment and revitalization efforts;
  • Initiatives that help create resilient neighborhoods;
  • Community enhancements that spur economic growth;
  • Professional development and education programs to build local government capacity

Utility Account

The Utility Account assists local governments in counties that have one of the 80 most distressed rankings under G.S. 143B-437.08 after adjustments are applied for creating jobs in eligible industries. Funds are provided as incentives for job creation and investment to benefit industries eligible to participate in the Article 3J tax credit program. 

NC Department of Commerce

County Distress Ranking (Tiers)

The North Carolina Department of Commerce annually ranks the state’s 100 counties based on economic well-being and assigns each a Tier designation. This Tier system is incorporated into various state programs to encourage economic activity in the less prosperous areas of the state.  County Tiers are calculated using four factors: average unemployment rate, median household income, percentage growth in population, adjusted property tax base per capita.

Job Development Investment Grant (JDIG)

The Job Development Investment Grant (JDIG) is a performance-based, discretionary incentive program that provides cash grants directly to new and expanding companies to help offset the cost of locating or expanding a facility in the state.

One North Carolina Fund

The One North Carolina Fund (OneNC) is a discretionary cash-grant program that allows the Governor to respond quickly to competitive job-creation projects. The North Carolina Department of Commerce administers OneNC on behalf of the Governor. Awards are based on the number of jobs created, level of investment, location of the project, economic impact of the project and the importance of the project to the state and region.

Shell Buildings

Loans for industrial shell buildings are available from the Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) based on the projected number of jobs to be created and the level of distress in the community. These loans will be at a 2% interest rate with a maximum term of 5 years. Principle payments are deferred for the first two years of the loan. A dollar for dollar match is required by the local government applicant for an industrial shell building.

Resources

COVID-19 Resources

Planning for Healthy Communities

Consistent with its mission, the NC Department of Commerce sponsored preparation of a guidebook on integrating healthy planning principles into local comprehensive plans. The Guidebook on Local Planning for Healthy Communities, published in 2013, has statewide applicability and provides technical assistance to municipalities and counties in solving local planning problems. Its focus is on multiple dimensions of healthy community planning, but it goes further to serve as a resource guide for towns, cities, and counties in preparing a variety of local plans in addition to comprehensive plans.

Community Economic Recovery & Resiliency Initiative (CERRI)

BackgroundCurrent CERI Communities

In response to the economic challenges communities have faced because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NC Main Street & Rural Planning Center's Rural Planning program (RPP) developed the Community Economic Recovery & Resiliency Initiative (CERRI).  The initiative, launched in January 2021, is intended to help small towns and rural communities recover from the economic impacts of the pandemic and build local economies that are more resilient to future crises.  Through CERRI, the RPP provides participating communities with a planning process to develop local economic recovery strategies and technical assistance to implement them.  Key CERRI services offered by the RPP include conducting a community assessment; facilitating development of an economic recovery plan of work to build local economic resiliency and support small businesses; and providing guidance and assistance, as needed, with plan of work implementation.

The RPP has engaged 28 communities in CERRI: the first 12 in 2021 (shown as "Initial" on the map) and 16 more in 2022 (shown as "New" on the map). 

Quarterly Impact Reports

The RPP prepares CERRI Impact Reports on a quarterly basis. Links to available reports are shown below.

CERRI Quarterly Impact Reports
2021 Quarter 1 Quarter 2  Quarter 3 Quarter 4
2022 Quarter 1      

CERRI Contacts

For more information about CERRI, please contact Darren Rhodes, Rural Planning Program Manager, at drhodes@commerce.nc.gov, or the Prosperity Zone planner assigned to your region.

Creating Outdoor Recreation Economies (CORE)

The NC Department of Commerce’s Main Street & Rural Planning Center announces a technical assistance program offering Outdoor Recreation Economy Strategic Planning and Asset Development services.

The program will offer planning and asset development to leverage the abundant outdoor recreation resources available across the state of North Carolina to bolster local economic vitality. This will be accomplished through focusing on activities communities can do to: Increase tourism; Encourage small business development; Position communities to attract outdoor gear manufacturing industries; Plan for outdoor recreation asset and infrastructure development; and Enhance quality of life improvements for residents.

In North Carolina, outdoor recreation is a big economic driver!
•    $9.9 Billion in total Outdoor Recreation Value Added economic impact within North Carolina
•    123,647 direct jobs statewide in the Outdoor Recreation associated employment categories
•    $5.2 Billion in wages and compensation for North Carolina workers

How can your community benefit from this dynamic economic sector?

Creating Outdoor Recreation Economies (CORE) Application

Apply

CORE Information Session

Webinar Video

Webinar PowerPoint

Creating Outdoor Recreation Economies (CORE) Primary Contact

David McRae
Appalachian Regional Commission Assistant Program Manager
North Carolina Department of Commerce
919-814-4672    office
984-365-0853    mobile
david.mcrae@commerce.nc.gov

FAQs

What is an outdoor recreation economy?

The outdoor recreation economy is a broad economic sector that includes consumer spending on things such as guides, outfitters, and equipment. Outdoor recreation also fuels employment and consumer spending in other sectors such as manufacturing, retail, transportation, food service, tourism, travel, and more. There are also other intangible and harder to quantify economic benefits of outdoor recreation that include improved physical and mental health and attracting residents and workforce talent. All of which can make your community a more desirable place to live, work, and play.

How can community and economic development planning enhance a local outdoor recreation economy?

The strategic planning process will provide an economic vision developed with input from community leaders and public participation.

The visioning process will identify recommendations and activities to build an ecosystem of places where people participate in outdoor recreation, small business support, outdoor recreation infrastructure that increases quality of life for residents, tourism, creative placemaking, and more. These elements work together to increase economic opportunity and community vitality.

Is there grant funding available through this program?

No. There is no direct grant funding available under this program. However, identifying potential funding opportunities is a component of the strategic planning process.

What does a community need to do to engage with the Rural Planning Center for these services?

  • A representative of the local government must complete a brief application. 
  • A Memorandum of Understanding approved by the local governing board is required to engage the NC Department of Commerce’s Main Street & Rural Planning Center in the planning process.

What is expected from communities who participate in this program?

  • A representative from the unit of local government to serve as the primary point of contact.
  • Approval of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) by the local governing board is required.
  • Collaboration with the Rural Planning Center to form a stakeholder’s group to provide input and steer the planning process.
  • Collaboration with the Rural Planning Center to gather other public participation and input during the planning process.

What is the duration of the strategic planning process?

We will tailor the strategic planning process to meet the needs of each individual community. Therefore, the duration of each planning process will vary from community to community.

What are the benefits of strategically planning to enhance your local outdoor recreation economy?

  • Outdoor recreation is a big economic driver in North Carolina:

     

    • $9.9 Billion in total Outdoor Recreation Value Added economic impact within North Carolina in 2020.
    • 123,647 direct jobs statewide in the Outdoor Recreation associated employment categories
    • $5.2 Billion in wages and compensation for North Carolina workers
    • In 2017, Outdoor Recreation in NC resulted in $28 Billion in total consumer spending
  • People want to participate in outdoor recreation of all kinds:
    • Nationwide, 7.1 million more Americans participated in outdoor recreation in 2020 than in the year prior.
    • 56% of North Carolinians participate in some form of outdoor recreation each year.
    • This includes more than 22.8 million visitors to North Carolina State Parks in 2021 — three million more than any other year on record.
  • Quality of Life for Residents:
    • People want to live, work, and play in communities with high quality of life, and increasingly this includes access to outdoor recreation. 
    • There are numerous benefits to participating in outdoor recreation including physical and mental health, workforce recruitment, and enhanced community placemaking.

What types of people and organizations should be included during the planning process?

A diverse stakeholder group that represents the broad spectrum associated with the outdoor recreation economic ecosystem will achieve the most successful strategic planning outcomes. Ideally this group will remain together as a cohesive entity after the completion of the plan to continue work on implementing recommendations. Not all groups are required to be represented on the primary stakeholder group, and input from certain sectors can be provided via surveys and other public input methods. But a diverse cross-section will be beneficial to the planning process.

  • Local government leaders
  • Economic development professionals
  • Tourism Development Authority
  • Chambers of Commerce or local business owners
  • Recreation user groups (Friends of Parks, bicycle groups, hiking clubs, scouts, etc.)
  • Education (K12, Community College, University, applicable youth programs)
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Environmental/Conservation Groups (Land Trusts, Riverkeepers)
  • Public Land Management Agencies (State Parks, National Forest, Wildlife Resource Commission)
  • Entrepreneurship support organizations (SBTDCs, Small Business Centers, CDFIs)

What are the program deliverables that a community will receive at the end of the process?

There are a variety of final products that a community will be provided at the end of a strategic planning process including:

  • Outdoor Recreation Economy Strategic Plan - The plan will include elements that focus on how recreational assets can be leveraged to increase economic and community vitality. The plan will contain background information, data obtained from public input, and recommendations to implement the findings which will help the community enhance their local outdoor recreation economy.
  • Asset Mapping – an inventory of all outdoor recreation and associated industry assets available within a community will be identified. This inventory will convey details about the asset that will enable community leaders to best leverage their assets to support economic development.
  • Training – There will be training opportunities for community stakeholders to increase knowledge of strategies to grow economic opportunity based around outdoor recreation.

Additional Information

Funding for this program made possible by the US Economic Development Administration

Creating Outdoor Recreation Economies (CORE)