I wanted to reach out to you to share some of the reasons I am thankful. November 2022 marked the end of my third year as president, chief executive officer at Golden LEAF. This year, I am thankful for the commitment of the Golden LEAF Board of Directors and Golden LEAF team to take on new programs and expand existing programs, provide funding for transformative projects that will bring thousands of jobs to the state, and continue to grow the talent in rural areas of our state through college and university scholarships. I’d like to take a moment to reflect on the past year and the opportunities that lie ahead.
Golden LEAF Funding November 2021 – November 2022
From November 2021 to November 2022, the Golden LEAF Board of Directors awarded more than $126.8 million through 61 projects that will help create jobs and economic investment, help train workers for available jobs, support the agriculture industry, and provide needed infrastructure for job creation.
These awards include funding through the Economic Catalyst Program. This year several transformative projects were awarded including: $50 million for VinFast at the Triangle Innovation Point megasite, $40 million for the Toyota Battery Manufacturing plant at the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite, and $9.7 million for Wolfspeed Inc. at the Chatham-Siler City Advanced Manufacturing Site. In total, the Golden LEAF Board awarded more than $102 million to support Economic Catalyst projects that are projected to create at least 11,862 jobs and a capital investment of $10.5 billion.
In April 2022, the Golden LEAF Board awarded more than $10 million to support projects in the Western Prosperity Zone through the Community-Based Grants Initiative. The Community-Based Grants Initiative is a competitive process that focuses on a region and is designed to identify projects aligned with Golden LEAF’s priority areas of job creation and economic investment, workforce preparedness, and agriculture that are ready for implementation and have the potential to have a significant impact. In the Western Prosperity Zone, the Golden LEAF Board awarded funds for 14 Community-Based Grants Initiative projects that support workforce preparedness, job creation and economic investment, public infrastructure, and agriculture outcomes in Buncombe, Cherokee, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Madison, and Transylvania counties.
The new SITE Program launched in September 2021. This program provides support to communities to identify potential sites for economic development, enable completion of due diligence on sites already identified, or to extend public utilities to or conduct rough grading and clearing of sites for which due diligence has been completed. The Golden LEAF Board budgeted $10 million for the first two rounds of the program and made its first two rounds of awards in December 2021 and June 2022. To date, Golden LEAF has awarded $9,957,488 in funding for 24 SITE Program projects. For fiscal year 2022-2023, the Golden LEAF Board has increased the budget for the SITE Program from $10 million per year to $15 million due to demand for the program.
Golden LEAF Scholarship Program
Additionally, the Golden LEAF Board also provided funding totaling more than $5.8 million to support the Golden LEAF Scholarship Program that provides funding for students from rural counties to attend North Carolina’s community colleges and colleges and universities, as well as provides leadership training and paid internships in rural communities. Golden LEAF is currently accepting applications for rural entities interested in hosting a Golden LEAF Scholar. The application for the Golden LEAF Colleges and Universities Scholarship is expected to go live in January 2023. More information will be available on our website in the new year at scholars.goldenleaf.org.
We also launched two programs that were the result of appropriations from the State of North Carolina: Flood Mitigation Program and the Food Distribution Assistance Program.
The Flood Mitigation Program launched February 1, 2022. This program is a result of $25 million in funding from the State to provide funding to local governments for public infrastructure projects that will result in the mitigation of flooding. The Flood Mitigation Program will award funding up to $250,000 per project. Funds may only be awarded to units of local government. Local governments from all 100 counties are eligible. Since February, the Golden LEAF Board has awarded $4,941,310 in Flood Mitigation Program funds to support 24 projects in 22 counties.
The Food Distribution Assistance Program launched November 1, 2022. The N.C. General Assembly appropriated $10 million to Golden LEAF for the Food Distribution Assistance Program. This program is funded by federal State Fiscal Recovery Funds through the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The first awards through the Food Distribution Assistance Program are expected to be made June 2023.
Outreach and Engagement
Golden LEAF continues to be a strong partner for the long-term economic success of North Carolina. As part of our strategy to keep an eye on the needs in our state, I finished my 100 county tour of the North Carolina in June 2022. The 100 county tour helped me become more familiar with the opportunities and challenges of western, central, and eastern North Carolina. On this tour, I met with all of the community college presidents. I am expanding upon this opportunity by committing to visit all 58 community college campuses. As of today, I only have three more college campuses to visit and plan to complete these visits by the end of 2022. I look forward to sharing more about these visits with you in a future newsletter.
I am thankful that our Board of Directors is committed to the mission of Golden LEAF and implementing the Strategic Plan they adopted in 2021. Our Board continues to assess the needs of the state and is exploring the best ways for Golden LEAF to play a role in supporting strategies that will address these needs now and in the future. Golden LEAF will continue to be a strong partner for the long-term economic success of North Carolina.
As we recognize all we have to be thankful for, let us also look to continuing to partner to grow our state’s economy.