LEAF meetings set

Published 12:39 am Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Golden LEAF Foundation has scheduled the first of several meetings next month that could bring as much as $2 million to Beaufort County to fund projects designed to spur economic development in the county.

“The goal is to create projects that are going to move the needle in Beaufort County,” said Calvin Allen, program officer for the foundation. “That will move Beaufort County forward.”

The meeting — to discuss the Golden LEAF Foundation’s Community Assistance Initiative — will be conducted at 6 p.m. Oct. 11 in the multi-purpose room of Building 10 at Beaufort County Community College.

The meeting will give the public a chance to learn about Golden LEAF community-assistance grants and the process of applying for funds under the program, Allen said. The meeting agenda includes a description of the initiative and time for a questions-and-answers segment, he said.

It is the first of six to eight meetings planned during the coming months to give area residents a chance to help create economic-develop goals for the community and recommend a slate of projects to help Beaufort County meet those goals, Allen said.

The community initiative grants have been set aside by the foundation for those counties, such as Beaufort County, that have been identified as economically distressed, also known as Tier I counties, Golden LEAF President Dan Gerlach said in a recent interview.

Gerlach said he expects the grants to be awarded by the foundation’s directors in 2012.

The Golden LEAF grants would be “welcome at any time,” but are particularly helpful as the county struggles during the economic downturn, said Tom Thompson, executive director of Beaufort County’s Economic Development Commission.

“This is huge,” he said of the forthcoming grants.

Before Golden LEAF scheduled the meetings, several organizations expressed interest in obtaining a Golden LEAF grants for projects.

Beaufort County, economic development and community college leaders have said they will ask for some Community Assistance Initiative funds to help defray the costs of an Allied Health building under construction at BCCC.

Thompson said the Beaufort County Committee of 100, which hopes to develop a project that would focus on training workers in highly industrial skills, has added its voice in support of training additional health-care workers at BCCC.

Earlier this year, Bath High School Preservation announced its plans to try for $100,000 in Golden LEAF funds to help create a library and community center at the former high school.

Allen said these and other groups shouldn’t come prepared at the Oct. 11 meeting to make their cases for funds, but they should come prepared to learn about the grant-making process.