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Originally published: 2012-11-08 11:56:50
Last modified: 2012-11-08 11:56:50

Avery, state leaders meet to discuss development

Matthew Hundley / (matthew.hundley@averyjournal.com)

County leaders met with state legislators and leaders from the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center Inc. on Tuesday, Oct. 23, in the Avery County Board of Commissioners’ boardroom.

Avery County leaders sat down with three members of the N.C. General Assembly, Mitch Gillespie, Phillip Frye and Ray Rapp; Billy Ray Hall, president of N.C. Rural Economic Development Center; Billy Guillet, director of NCREDC’s agricultural advancement consortium; and Elaine Matthews, NCREDC’s senior vice president of innovation and outreach.

Gillespie explained the need for the meeting and what he hoped to accomplish by better acquainting Avery leaders with the resources available through NCREDC.

“The reason I have asked them to come up here to Avery County is because I want my counties that I represent to know where funds are available to help these rural counties,” said Gillespie. “I want the counties I will be representing to know first hand what they have to do to apply for grants.”

Hall took a moment to delineate the grants and other resources that NCREDC can offer, not just to the county, but to businesses. 

“The General Assembly, led by Mr. Gillespie and others provided resources for us to help places like Avery County to pursue growing their jobs in the county so that people have the opportunity to work here, rather than having to go somewhere else,” said Hall. “Over the years, we have been primarily the source for helping people put in water, sewer and infrastructure, and also providing help with jobs. The really neat thing in jobs is that we are helping communities take vacant buildings, like they are going to do in Banner Elk, and turn it into an incubator or turn it into manufacturing if a manufacturer is interested. So we are hopefully helping communities use the resources they have to attract business and growth in the community.” 

According to Hall, NCREDC has the ability to underwrite loans for businesses, in addition to establishing grants for infrastructure projects.

“If you are going to start a business, you call us. We have people there to council you,” said Hall. “We are fortunate. All lot of places are not having the resources to help communities, but thanks to the leadership of Mr. Gillespie, Mr. Rapp and Mr. Frye, we are in a position to help.”

Gillespie explained that for many rural communities in Western North Carolina, the NCREDC has already been a resource for 25 years. 

“Well, it is the lifeblood of rural counties. Last year, I met with Billy Ray and asked what I could do to help. So we sat down last year and established a brand new fund, called the emergency infrastructure grant program,” said Gillespie, explaining that $5 million in recurring money was set aside for the program.

“That money disappeared in the first three months and created about 1,200 jobs. As far as creating a new program that creates jobs, that is definitely one of them.”

According to Economic Development Director Bret Gardella, the meeting was encouraging, with the next step consisting of identifying banking institutions in Avery County that can help administer the loans and other programs that NCREDC offers.