A new year for rural North Carolina

Published 9:52 pm Friday, February 1, 2019

By Patrick Woodie

In 2018, it was a tale of two North Carolinas: a story showing both our geographic vulnerabilities and our economic strengths. It was a year of headlines and hard lessons.

Our state’s continued economic strength topped national lists, making North Carolina, once again, a great place to live and work, while the lethal winds and floodwaters of Hurricane Florence twisted a harrowing slate of headlines last September.

The storm’s wrath taught us many things, but perhaps the greatest lesson we learned about ourselves last year is how our resiliency remains, even flourishes, in times of crisis. Our fellow North Carolinians who stepped into greater roles in those moments of crisis — and in the immediate aftermath — are nothing short of heroes.

In November of 2018, two months after Hurricane Florence made landfall, we hosted our annual event, the NC Rural Assembly. Nearly 500 rural leaders traveled from across the state, joining together and once again strengthening the diverse, innovative fabric of our resilient state.

The theme of that two-day event: Developing leaders who are well trained, better supported, and fully resourced is essential for the future success of rural North Carolina.

Leaders who believe in the potential of the places they call home, who are ready to build brighter economies in their local communities, and who will help prepare us for the next natural disaster.

Here at the NC Rural Center, we call these leaders our community “spark plugs.”

For nearly 30 years, the NC Rural Center has helped these “spark plugs” all across North Carolina reach their full potential.

Our flagship leadership program, the Rural Economic Development Institute, is now accepting applications for its 2019 class. REDI trains rural leaders to examine their communities and regions through a comprehensive, community economic development lens. The program instills the tools and skills needed to create a collective vision and helps them build capacity to create sustainable change.

In its 29th year, REDI has trained more than 1,200 rural leaders, weaving a tight-knit and supportive alumni network statewide.

Through our Homegrown Leaders program, we take REDI into the field. In March, HGL will be in Asheville, helping Western NC leaders develop a broader and deeper regional approach to rural economic development and leadership advancement. If you don’t live in one of the Western NC counties eligible for the March training, don’t worry. HGL will visit other parts of the state in 2019.

If you are an emerging leader or an established leader looking to build or improve your skills, I encourage you to apply for one of our programs. To do so, go to www.ncruralcenter.org/leadership. Applications for the 29th class of REDI and for the Western NC Homegrown Leaders training are both due Feb. 8.

If you’re dedication to your community is unwavering, join us and become the “spark plug” you are called to be.

We will help you ignite your potential.

From all of us at the NC Rural Center, we wish you a blessed and prosperous 2019.

Patrick Woodie is the president of the nonprofit North Carolina Rural Center.