Community-Based Grants Initiative provides opportunity for regional, strategic projects

Northwestern North Carolina has a unique opportunity this fall to leverage an available $11 million to be awarded by the Golden LEAF Foundation for projects that will boost job creation, workforce preparedness and education, agriculture, and community vitality.

The 12 counties that make up the state’s Northwest Prosperity Zone are the focus of the Golden LEAF Foundation’s region-specific effort to lift the economy. The Foundation’s Community-Based Grants Initiative (CBGI) targets one Prosperity Zone per year and is designed to advance local projects ready for implementation through grant funding, capacity building, and leadership development. 

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.

Through the CBGI process in the Piedmont-Triad region, the Davidson County I-85 Corporate Center was awarded $1 million for needed infrastructure to attract large tenants to the industrial site. With several prospective industries lined up, the CBGI funding in April 2017 had an immediate economic impact. In a matter of months, EGGER Wood Products, an Austrian-based wood product manufacturer, announced it would open its first United States plant at the Davidson County-owned park with 770 jobs after its 15-year build out.

The Davidson County facility is EGGER’s first U.S. manufacturing operation. Despite delays related to COVID-19 travel bans, the company plans to be operational by the end of 2020 and has already hired 205 workers in the first quarter of 2020.

Other projects that receive CBGI funding and support often involve a strategy that includes multiple funders to build a project to scale.

In January 2016, Isothermal Community College participated in the 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.

Isothermal Community College received nearly $700,000 in CBGI funding to support the project, which included an agribusiness clinical site on campus to benefit community college students, FFA members, and incumbent manufacturing workers. As of July, 330 students and four incumbent workers have been trained, 140 credentials earned, and 28 students have earned degrees or completed credit programs.

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 CBGI process, visit https://www.goldenleaf.org/grant-seekers/northwest-prosperity-zone/.

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