Economic Development Resources

Opportunity Zones and Economic Development Prospectus

On Monday, 1/7/2019, IPDC presented to the Forest City Town Council to discuss the Isothermal Region’s certified Opportunity Zones and a strategy for promoting them: a prospectus.  Click here to view the slides, click here to see an example of an economic development prospectus and click here for more information about Opportunity Zones. 

To learn more about developing an economic development prospectus for your community, contact Steve Lockett. 

Emerging Issues (IEI) at NC State seeking Community Applications

Are you or your community actively working on successful or promising initiatives, increasing civic engagement to address critical community challenges?    ReCONNECT NC is a new initiative of the Institute for Emerging Issues (IEI) at NC State
University to address a profound challenge: the loss of connection — to work, to civic institutions, to one another — that has serious and measurable consequences for North Carolina’s economy and the individual well-being of us all. Without strong ties to employers, schools, local communities and neighbors, people are far less likely to contribute to economic growth, maintain their health, or participate in the social and civic activities that define our shared quality of life.

Click here for more information..

Economic Development News

IPDC has joined the North Carolina Economic Development Association,  NCEDA supports local and regional economic development efforts through a broad range of professional education and training, association networking opportunities and by collaboration with the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, the North Carolina Department of Commerce and our state legislators.

The International Economic Development Council (IEDC),, recently released a new brochure: “Why Invest in Economic Development?” It is a great high level overview of why elected officials, local and regional agencies should support economic development efforts, and it highlights federal economic development programs and organizations, such as EDA, ARC, and the WIOA program.

Legislative Agenda for NC Rural Day

2018 Isothermal Planning and Development Commission Regional Legislative Issues for Rural Day.

2018 NCARCOG State Legislative Agenda

Inaccurate Data Skews N.C. Broadband Statistics

​Access to the high-speed broadband services needed for business, education, and health care remains a constant challenge in many parts of North Carolina. But, as legislators were informed on Thursday, accurately quantifying the true gaps in broadband service has been nearly impossible due to inaccurate data reported by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

In hearing about the impacts of a lack of high-speed broadband access on telehealth efforts across the state, Rep. David Lewis reiterated that the FCC maps overstated the case, tagging many areas of the state as receiving high-speed broadband service where none actually existed. This overly rosy picture resulted from several factors, according to a representative from the N.C. Broadband Infrastructure Office (NCBIO).

NCBIO explained that the FCC relies on reports from private wireless carriers regarding their service levels in census blocks. Because the FCC allows carriers to count the entire block as served even if only one parcel actually receives the service, NCBIO said the data indicated much wider broadband availability than actually exists. To determine the true level of broadband service across the state, NCBIO is now asking residents and businesses to report their service levels and lack of access to its N.C. Broadband Map.

Contact: Erin Wynia

New Report Offers Strategies to Improve Health and Equity in Rural Communities  

The NORC Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis has released a final report and series of practice briefs from the Exploring Strategies to Improve Health and Equity in Rural Communities project.  The project focused on enhanced understanding of culture and history, priorities, assets, partners, and promising strategies unique to and common across rural communities and regions.  The NORC Walsh Center team engaged partners across sectors to explore how assets can be leveraged to strengthen rural communities and to create conditions that promote overall health and well-being.  The NADO Research Foundation served as national partner on this project.  Click here to access the final report and practice briefs.

EDA invites applications for construction and technical assistance projects that will advance economic development objectives

The U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) invites applicants to submit proposals and applications for construction and technical assistance projects that advance economic development.  EDA can support the construction of new public assets or the renovation of existing public assets that support job creation or job retention.
Additionally, EDA provides resources to help communities with technical assistance projects that help inform economic development decisions.Proposals and Applications are accepted throughout the year.
To discuss potential projects and learn more, please contact Hillary Sherman at 404.730.3013 or

EDA Resources:

2018 Annual Evaluation of North Carolina Economic Performance

EDA Offers Public Works and Economic Adjustments Grants to Advance Development Priorities

EDA Provides Technical Assistance Grants to Advance Development Priorities

Strategic Investments in Action: The U.S Economic Development Administration’s Role in Advancing Economic Development in North Carolina

North Carolina Opportunity Zones Program

Opportunity Zones are a new community development program established by Congress in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 to encourage long-term investments in low-income urban and rural communities nationwide.

In December 2017, Congress signed into law H.R. 1 (the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act), designed to provide tax incentives to fund new investments in underserved low-income communities.  As part of this new legislation, the Opportunity Zones Program provides tax incentives for qualified investor to re-invest into low-income communities, with each state authorized to designate up to 25% of its total low-income census tracts as qualified Opportunity Zones (low-income census tracks are areas where the poverty rate is 20% or greater and/or family income is less than 80% of the area’s median income).

North Carolina has just over 1,000 qualifying low-income census tracts, including areas in McDowell, Rutherford and Cleveland counties.  There are still many steps before this program can be fully implemented, and the Commission will stay on top of ongoing developments.  If you would like to learn more about the program, please here.

ARC Releases FY 2017 State-by-State Factsheets

Earlier this week the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) released their annual State-by-State Factsheets.  These Factsheets offer a snapshot of ARC investments, additional matches, and job and worker information.

These factsheets have routinely provided helpful information to leaders in North Carolina, and our Isothermal Region, where three of our four counties (Polk, McDowell and Rutherford) are located within ARC’s coverage area.  The Factsheets homepage can be found here.  The North Carolina Factsheet on State and Federal Investments can be found here.

ARC Releases Information on FY 2019 Funding Applications

The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) has fully released all information related to FY 2019 funding, including programmatic and pre-application guidelines.

The Commission has a long history of working closely with ARC, and will be reviewing all of the available programs and opportunities.  We can provide assistance and guidance to any of our member who may be interested in pursuing ARC programs and funding. We recommend reviewing the ARC State Goals as well as the Isothermal Regional Economic Development Strategy which can be found here.

Additionally, ARC has announced that Western N.C. communities receive $1.6M to enhance workers’ health care.  The Commission has been engaged with expanding Worker Wellness across the Isothermal Region and will be looking closely at this opportunity.  ARC program specifics can be found online here.

Please contact Steve Lockett, Director of Economic, Workforce and Community Development, at for more information.

Understanding the Opioid Crisis in Appalachia

The Appalachian Regional Commission just released a new data visualization tool illustrating the impact of the opioid epidemic in the Appalachian Region and its relation to socioeconomic factors such as unemployment, poverty, education, and disability.

ARC Executive Director Scott T. Hamilton said this tool could be “valuable to communities developing comprehensive strategies to address the epidemic.”

This information is concerning. However, We are blessed, here in the Isothermal Region with people who want to change the trajectory of this issue.

Click here to view and interact with the new mapping tool. 

Assessment of Western North Carolina Communities for Potential Coal Impacts

Prepared for the North Carolina Department of Commerce
Prepared by Dan Hodge, Hodge Economic Consulting – March 2017

2018 North Carolina Employer Needs Survey 

The Labor & Economic Analysis Division of the North Carolina Department of Commerce has released the 2018 Employer Needs Survey.  This is a representative survey of all NC employers with 10+ employees.  Nearly 2,000 completed surveys from all 100 counties.  Click here to view the report!

WNC Small Business Closure Crisis Click here to view the info graphic created by Project Equity and the Industrial Commons.

The small business closure crisis directly affects the future of our region’s workforce.  Attend the free Worker Ownership Action Institute to learn more!

Build America Bureau Releases Tool on Public-Private Partnerships

The Build America Bureau has issued an updated version of its P3-VALUE tool for use in evaluating public-private partnerships.  The updated tool features a new input sheet, value for money analysis output sheet, and option and details on inputs for transit and high-occupancy vehicles.  The tool is provided in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Center for Innovative Finance Support.  Click here to access the tool.  Instructional webinars will be held on February 22, March 22, and April 26 from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. ET.  Click here for more information. Pre-registration is required; click here to register.

Worker Ownership Action Day a Success

On November 30th, 2017, over 40 people, representing small businesses in the Isothermal Region, gathered at Isothermal Community College to learn more about Worker Ownership at the first Worker Ownership Action Day.

One of  the challenges of workforce development and succession planning in the Isothermal Region, is promoting sustainable solutions that attract and retain workers to  jobs, that strengthen and grow our economy, and create succession, capacity and supply chain building. One such solution is that of Worker Ownership.

The Isothermal Regional Commission (IPDC) partnered with Isothermal Community College and the Industrial Commons to discuss Worker Ownership and ESOP as a viable option for businesses to consider in this one day workshop on November 30, 2017. Gathered together were business owners, technical support providers, and community stakeholders in an interactive setting to learn about worker ownership and strategize together about how to expand this powerful business model in our region.

Worker Ownership

“We were interested in inviting to this event Business owners thinking about retirement or interested in learning about ways to share ownership with their employees; Technical assistance providers who work with small businesses, such as Small Business Centers, Small Business Technology and Development Centers, Small Business Associations and Community Development Financial Institutions; and, City and community leaders from Rutherford County and other counties in the region and small business who might benefit from this opportunity,” stated Scott Dadson, Executive Director for the Isothermal Regional Commission.  “We were blown away by the attendance and even more importantly, the interest by people in the region to learn more about this economic development tool.”

On Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017, Commission staff participated in the Appalachian Regional Commission’s “Creating a Culture of Health in Appalachia – Disparities and Bright Spots” briefing call.  ARC’s research goes beyond the toll opioids are having on the Region to explore the vast array of health metrics in Appalachia including chronic diseases, mortality, mental health, and dozens of other health indicators.

Their research shows that the ARC region has a myriad of profound health challenges which are clearly impacting workforce and the Region’s ability to reach its full economic potential.  It also provides insight about future strategic investment approaches for the Commission and its partners.  Follow the links below for the briefing materials:

Key Findings — Creating a Culture of Health in Appalachia

Creating a Culture of Health in Appalachia — PPT

Appalachian Region Endures Dramatic Health Challenges Compared to Nation, New Research Shows — Press Release 8/24/2017