The Golden LEAF Community-Based Grants Initiative (CBGI) will launch in the Western Prosperity Zone on January 26, 2021 at 2 p.m. with a virtual information session. Organizations serving one or more of the counties in the Western Prosperity Zone are eligible to apply. The Western Prosperity Zone includes: Buncombe, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, Polk, Rutherford, Swain, and Transylvania.
The CBGI invites one Prosperity Zone per year and is designed to advance local projects ready for implementation. The Golden LEAF Board has allocated $11 million for CBGI. Funds will be awarded for projects that move the economic needle in a community through job creation, workforce preparedness and education, and agriculture.
Identifying the right projects that will significantly benefit the region and have a long-lasting economic impact is a foundational first step in maximizing these awards. CBGI focuses on projects that bring local economic development, workforce and education, agriculture, and industry leaders around the common cause of creating jobs. Most successful projects are collaborative, strategic, and scale up to benefit more than one community.
To kick off the CBGI, Golden LEAF has engaged the NC Rural Center to provide training and coaching for project teams. This available resource will help broaden the region’s leadership base, enhance community and regional collaborations, and develop strategic, innovative projects to transform the economy. The results of the Rural Center’s work will enable the region to better compete for other national, state, and private resources, as well as strengthen the quality and reach of proposals for Golden LEAF’s CBGI.
The CBGI last focused in the Western Prosperity Zone in 2016 when Golden LEAF awarded $8,844,405.99 for 12 projects to support workforce development and education, healthcare, water and sewer infrastructure, and construction.
Many projects that receive CBGI funding often involve a strategy that includes multiple funders to build a project to scale.
Isothermal Community College participated in the 2016 CBGI process and partnered with the U.S. Economic Development Administration, Rutherford County, and the Appalachian Regional Commission on plans to construct a new facility where advanced industrial technologies and agribusiness programs would be located.
The college received nearly $700,000 in CBGI funding to support the project. As of summer semester 2020, 330 students and four incumbent workers have been trained, 140 credentials earned, and 28 students have earned degrees or completed credit programs.
Healthcare continues to be a challenge in rural areas. The pandemic has highlighted the need for more trained healthcare professionals.
In 2016, Golden LEAF awarded $1,013,242 in CBGI funding to Blue Ridge Community College to provide simulation lab equipment and related technology and furnishings for the community college’s new Health Sciences Center. The equipment included lifelike mannequins that simulate different medical procedures and reactions to those procedures, which students are able to use in place of some of their clinical experiences.
The state-of-the-art center was the result of a collaboration between Blue Ridge Community College, Pardee Hospital, Henderson County Public Schools, and Wingate University. As of summer 2020, the college has graduated 107 students with an associates degree in nursing, with more than 60 finding full time employment in their field. The program has also helped train 178 incumbent workers.
Another project to address healthcare and other science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields used a regional approach to help build a pipeline in these high demand fields.
Southwestern Community College (SCC) used $293,027.03 in Golden LEAF CBGI funds to prepare adult students for employment in healthcare occupations and connect students in grades 6-12 with career opportunities and training pathways in STEM-related fields that are in demand by employers in the region. The SCC project was a collaboration between the college and Jackson, Macon, and Swain county schools. Funds were used to equip a health simulation lab to expand career pathways into health science programs at SCC.
To ensure success of the project, partners engaged a broad base of businesses to help develop the education to work pipeline, offer work-based learning experiences to students, and consider graduates for employment opportunities. Over the two-year project period, 155 students completed the Therapeutic & Diagnostic Diploma/Healthcare credit; 119 students earned industry-recognized/ third-party credentials; and 68 students earned college credit in Advanced Manufacturing and Health Sciences courses. Additionally, 265 students participated in clinicals and work-based learning opportunities and 64 students were employed in their field of study.
In August 2020, SCC received $198,400 in Golden LEAF Open Grants Program funding to assist with the purchase of simulation training equipment that will support the expansion of SCC’s health sciences programs. This program will complement the CBGI funding in health sciences at SCC. SCC is constructing a new health science building that is expected to open in August 2021. The expanded program will increase capacity from 440 to 638 students by 2023 and the college projects that it will produce 508 highly trained regional healthcare employees over ten years to meet demand and employer needs.
These success stories are the result of collaboration, planning, and rallying together around the challenging work needed to help regions make significant strides toward economic growth.
CBGI’s focused process culminates with grants targeted toward investments in the local community. Awards are typically limited to 1-3 projects per county and total no more than $1.5 million per county. For more information on the Western Prosperity Zone CBGI process, click here.