Cooper unveils new program focusing on rural economies

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GREENE COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) - Governor Roy Cooper says not enough is being done to help rural North Carolina counties build roads, expand high-speed internet, train people in job skills and find other ways to improve the economy. So he has launched an initiative to make that happen much faster.

Cooper announced Thursday the "Hometown Strong" initiative, which will kick off in the spring when counties are chosen for the first partnerships. Program leaders hope to work with a community's leaders to find ways to leverage funding and resources for projects with the assistance of state agencies, nonprofits, and others.

The hope is to bridge the gap between rural and urban communities.

Rick Davis, the director of Economic Development in Greene County, says he's still learning exactly how Hometown Strong will work, but he's optimistic about how it could help towns like Snow Hill.

The initiative is aimed at improving infrastructure, increasing broadband internet access, and training new workers in small towns. The hope is this will help stimulate rural economies.

In Greene County, only 12-percent of property tax revenue comes from businesses.

Greene County Economic Development says that small tax base makes it hard to put funds towards attracting new industries.

State Senator Don Davis says this plan will supplement help that rural communities already get from the state.

"What we're looking at here is connecting the dots between our state government and local officials so that rural communities, in particular, can acquire state resource," he says. "We have to make sure our doors are open for businesses in all communities in North Carolina."

Greene County officials hope Hometown Strong will also help rural counties share ideas about how to solve economic problems.

Leaders in rural communities will also be able to partner with businesses and non-profits through this initiative.

Governor Cooper will announce the first counties partnering with Hometown Strong in the spring.