Sparking economic growth in rural eastern North Carolina is the goal of a $1 million grant by the Golden LEAF Foundation to the region’s largest educational institution. The money will support East Carolina University’s RISE-29 effort, which helps graduates start businesses throughout the 29-county region or assist existing enterprises that are making succession and continuity plans. A key goal is to reverse the trend of declining population in much of the area.
“This innovative partnership will help create 150 jobs in rural communities and provide long-term business-growth strategies for current and budding business leaders,” Golden LEAF President Dan Gerlach said in a press release.
Golden LEAF awarded grants of $207 million and issued grant payments of $69 million in the last two fiscal years. The foundation, which has assets of $1.1 billion, was formed in 1999 to administer 50% of the state’s share of a national agreement with five big tobacco companies related to their marketing of cigarettes. Much of the state’s tobacco production has historically come from the 29 counties.