Rural areas won’t be left out, commerce secretary says

Sep. 13, 2013 @ 05:06 PM

While the state is reorganizing its economic development efforts, including eliminating funding for separate regional programs and The Rural Economic Development Center, the new structure of a public-private partnership should be more effective for communities across the state, North Carolina’s commerce secretary said during a stop in Jefferson on Thursday night.

“The state will be spending more on economic development,” Secretary Sharon Decker said.

The public-private partnership that will be the center of business recruitment and economic development efforts will have a division dedicated to rural areas. A leader for the rural division will be announced soon, Decker said, and the full team should be in place by the first quarter of 2014.

Decker was the guest speaker Thursday at the annual dinner of the Community Leaders Council, a program of Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corp.

Decker admitted that rural communities are recovering more slowly than the state’s urban areas and applauded the efforts of local leaders in trying to move their communities forward.

“I believe that there are five core tenets of community development,” she said: health, education, economic development, arts, tourism and culture, and quality of life.

One of her top priorities, she said, is making sure the entire state is “wired for business” by building out broadband access.