The towns have both enrolled in the Rural Community Capacity program (RC2), a new initiative from the North Carolina Department of Commerce that’s part of the broader Rural Transformation Grant program. That program was unveiled in March and offers $48 million for “local governments seeking to overcome challenges that limit their economic competitiveness,” according to the news release.
Towns in the more rural parts of the county, such as Vass and Carthage, have seen less commercial growth in recent years compared to the growth seen in the southern and more densely populated areas of the county. Programs that promise to bring more opportunities to these towns could add new value to their tax bases and help create incentives for people to stay in Moore County.
Along these lines, the idea of the Rural Community Capacity program is to give small towns the tools they need to chart a path forward in economic development through strategic planning. The program offers educational programming, technical assistance and guidance to local government staff.
After going through the capacity building program, rural communities can also set their eye on one of the newly available Rural Transformation Grant funds. That’s the goal for Vass, Town Administrator Mabel Walden said.
“It will help us so when we’re ready to apply for it, we’ll be able to gather our information easier,” Walden said. “We’ll know what we need to put together.”
Walden, who is one of the two Vass representatives attending the program, said she hopes it will give them a better understanding of the town’s goals when applying for a chunk of $48 million grant in the fall.
“We’re very excited,” Walden said. “We’re hoping that we can use the information we obtained through this program for the Rural Transformation Grant. Hopefully, we’ll be able to apply in the fall, and the board has to decide what we’re going to use the funds for.”
As for Carthage, Town Manager Tom Robinson said the town was also selected for the downtown revitalization category of the Rural Transformation Grant in the first application cycle, and that’s how it got involved with the Community Capacity Program. He said the educational program will help them figure out the best use of the grant funds.
“We’re seeing how we build our capacity in our town,” Robinson said. “So that’s part of the learning process for us.”
(Story by Evey Weisblat, The Pilot)