Golden LEAF awards grant to NC Rural Center to build regional leadership team in Sandhills Prosperity Zone

Foundation to work on regionalism, competitive economic development grant proposals as part of 20th Anniversary vision

January 16, 2019

(Rocky Mount, NC) The Golden LEAF Foundation recently awarded a grant to the NC Rural Center to build a diverse regional leadership team in the state’s Sandhills (South Central) Prosperity Zone and provide coaching to cross-county project teams to identify untapped regional opportunities for economic growth and development.

“As Golden LEAF reflects on 20 years of grantsmaking, we have invested in capacity building for the communities we were created to serve,” said Dan Gerlach, president of the Golden LEAF Foundation. “The mission and expertise of the Rural Center make them great partners for this important effort. The Foundation is excited to see this initiative help inform our work.”

The initiative will help 501c3 nonprofits and governmental entities across the region to better compete for national, state, and private resources, including strengthening the quality and reach of grant proposals for Golden LEAF’s anticipated 2019-2020 Community Based Grant Initiative (CBGI) in the Sandhills Prosperity Zone.

Golden LEAF’s CBGI supports the building blocks of economic growth in local communities, generally targeting one Prosperity Zone at a time. CBGI focuses on projects that address agriculture, education, workforce development, economic development, public infrastructure, and health care. The competitive application process is designed to identify projects that are ready for implementation at the award date and have the potential to have significant local economic impact.

The Rural Center will support the leadership and project teams by helping them identify opportunities and unmet needs through a coaching process that will engage a diverse cohort of county and regional stakeholders from the public, nonprofit, and business sectors.

“The single most important factor in the future of rural communities is the presence of highly skilled, highly-motivated leaders who are committed to bringing about positive change in today’s challenging economic environment,” said Rural Center President Patrick Woodie.

Rural Center coaches will work with a core team of regional leaders that will participate in leadership training events starting in early 2019.

“In order to move communities forward, a broad base of leadership must be formed to bring a diverse and innovative range of ideas and build the region’s capacity to develop and implement strategic projects that advance economic growth,” said Rural Center Senior Director of Programs Misty Herget.

Counties in the Sandhills Prosperity Zone include:

Bladen County
Columbus County
Cumberland County
Hoke County
Montgomery County
Moore County
Richmond County
Robeson County
Sampson County
Scotland County


About Golden LEAF

The Golden LEAF Foundation is a nonprofit organization established in 1999 to receive a portion of North Carolina’s funding received from the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement with cigarette manufacturers. For 20 years, Golden LEAF has worked to increase economic opportunity in North Carolina’s rural and tobacco-dependent communities through leadership in grantsmaking, collaboration, innovation, and stewardship as an independent and perpetual foundation.

The Foundation has provided lasting impact to tobacco-dependent, economically distressed and rural areas of the state by helping create 63,000 jobs, over half a billion dollars in new payrolls and more than 68,000 workers trained or retrained for higher wages. To learn more about the Golden LEAF Foundation, visit or call 888.684.8404.

About the NC Rural Center

For 30 years, the NC Rural Center has worked to develop, promote, and implement sound economic strategies to improve the quality of life of rural North Carolinians. The Center serves the state’s 80 rural counties, with a special focus on individuals with low to moderate incomes and communities with limited resources.



Jenny Tinklepaugh
Communications Officer

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