PINEHURST – What are the pillars of successful economic development to boost rural prosperity in North Carolina?

Local economic developers and civic leaders from 65 of North Carolina’s 100 counties will gather in Pinehurst on July 12–13 to discuss innovative tactics to enhance the five building blocks necessary for rural communities to boost economic opportunity for their residents.

Economic Development Partnership of NC

The conference “Energizing Rural North Carolina: The Building Blocks of Successful Economic Development,” will explore how infrastructure, workforce, education, health, and leadership—the five building blocks—shape economic outcomes in rural communities, according to the event organizers from the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina (EDPNC), which is headquartered in Cary.

This is the first of a multi-part story previewing the conference and key issues.

“We, as the leading economic development organization in the state, are serious about our 80 rural counties,” said Frank Emory, Jr., chairman of the EDPNC board of directors. “If you’re a county in North Carolina, rural, urban, or in between, we all have the opportunity and responsibility to wake up every day and figure out how to make this state stronger for all of our residents.”

Economic developers from all 100 counties in North Carolina were invited to participate, and each invitation called for individuals to bring local leaders that are driving positive systemic change in their communities. These leaders hail from all across the state from Tyrrell County in northeast North Carolina—population 4,000, to Forsyth County—the fourth-most populous county in the center of the state, to Transylvania County in western North Carolina— population 33,000.

“I’ve spent the better part of my life thinking about rural economic development,” said Mike Hawkins, Transylvania County Commissioner and EDPNC board member. “Rural counties are trying to solve problems, and sometimes, people think they’re intractable.”

Though problems can be defined in multiple ways, the committee that organized the first-ever conference event for the organization narrowed them into five categories, or building blocks, said Hawkins.

“Wouldn’t it be great if we can get all of the counties in the state into the same space for a few days,” said Hawkins, “And challenge them to take what they are hearing and seeing and apply it to their situations in their own counties?”

The organizers developed an impressive program that showcases projects and efforts that are underway in counties across the state, said Hawkins, with the ultimate goal is that people are not just attending to show up and listen. “But while there, they’ll have an interactive experience and work through thoughts and ideas and develop outlines of plans that they might be able to take back to their communities and help grow those building blocks.”

Next: Infrastructure and Internet