On April 27, 2023, the Golden LEAF Foundation held a Community-Based Grants Initiative Kickoff for the Piedmont-Triad Prosperity Zone in Lewisville. The approximately 150 attendees were able to hear from two panels of funding recipients focused on collaboration. One panel discussed the process of collaborating on the creation and implementation of a project and the other panel discussed how to handle collaborating funding partners for a project.
In 2017, Surry County Schools was awarded $254,346 for the Next Generation College and Career Academy of Surry – now Surry-Yadkin Works – through the Community-Based Grants Initiative. The project was funded to provide a college and career academy serving 40 local high school students. The Next Generation College and Career Academy focused on access to career pathways for students in advanced manufacturing, health sciences, agriculture, and other local industry employment sectors. The outcomes Golden LEAF would measure included increasing high school students earning a high school diploma and a two-year degree, increase in third-party credentials, and increases in internships/apprenticeships leading to employment.
The Next Generation College and Career Academy of Surry project was created from a collaboration between Superintendent Dr. Travis Reeves and now retired Associate Superintendent of Academic and Student Services Dr. Jill Reinhart of Surry County Schools, and President Dr. David Shockley with Surry Community College. Crystal Folger-Hawks, now the Program Director for Surry-Yadkin Works, was the first hire for the program. At the Kickoff, she talked about the need for the program, including an economic survey in 2015 that showed an increased need for more Technology, Manufacturing, Healthcare positions in Surry County. She also pointed out that the census data and other surveys indicated that students were graduating from Surry County Schools and relocating outside of the county. The leadership of both Surry County Schools and Surry Community College knew that to build the talent pool they needed for current and future opportunities, they had to work together with the Surry County Government and local business and industry.
Golden LEAF’s funding helped pay stipends to students for their work-based learning internships, the costs of textbooks, transportation costs for students, and a career coach/project manager. Key to the success of the program was to match the right students with the right employers. Folger-Hawks served in this role and monitored the internship experience, served as the education-business liaison, and worked with students on course and/or certification enrollment.
Throughout the funding period, the Next Generation College and Career Academy of Surry far exceeded its expectations. It started with 10 business partners and grew to over 35. Folger-Hawks created a Business Advisory Council that included business leaders, economic leaders, Chamber of Commerce Leaders, government officials, and education representatives. The goal through Golden LEAF funding was for 40 paid interns, at least 40 industry-recognized credentials earned, and 40 students to earn 12 or more college credit hours. The actual program outcomes were 130 paid interns, 563 industry-recognized credentials earned, and 93 students earned 12 or more college credits.
The Next Generation College and Career Academy of Surry grew so much as a result of the collaboration with the schools, college, government, and local businesses that in January 2021, Surry County and Yadkin County local government boards agreed to fund the expansion of the program and created Surry-Yadkin Works. By supporting the needs of Surry and Yadkin Counties, Surry-Yadkin Works has transitioned from internships to pre-apprenticeships and apprenticeships.
As a result of the Golden LEAF support and the growth of the program, Surry-Yadkin Works has received additional funding from Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, Educational Workforce Innovation Fund, Strada, and an Apprenticeship Expansion Grant. Surry-Yadkin Works now is a staff of eight and includes classroom business presentations, field trips, summer camps for elementary, middle and high school students, a health science collaboration, CDC/counselor business tours, 8th grade career fair, student job fair, career and technical education (CTE) plan implementation, and a 5th grade Touch-A-Truck event.
While collaboration among program creators and implementers is key to the success of a program, often projects need multiple funders to be successful. The second panel at the Kickoff focused on the applications to and reporting requirements of multiple funders.
In 2021, Golden LEAF awarded $500,000 to The Industrial Commons (TIC) through the Community-Based Grants Initiative to provide training opportunities for workers in the furniture and textile industries and to support the development and growth of an innovative closed loop production system. TIC is partnering with Western Piedmont Community College to provide programs to meet the workforce demand of the network of 40 textiles companies that make up the Carolina Textile District (CTD). Additionally, Material Return, a company controlled by TIC, will work with local manufacturers to convert post-production textile waste into new yarn creating a closed loop of production system, and adding value to these materials that are currently used for low-value purposes such as insulation. Companies in the CTD have identified demand for 80 employees. Golden LEAF funds are being used for equipment, project management and trainers, leased space, and supplies.
Director of Grants and Grant Development Jessica Stockham and Financial Grants Manager Dena Hunt of The Industrial Commons were joined by ARC Program Director at the North Carolina Department of Commerce Olivia Collier to explain more about collaborating with multiple funders. Both Stockham and Hunt said that they were consistently pursuing funding. To date, The Industrial Commons has received funding from local, state, federal, and world-wide funders as well as public and private funding organizations. They explained that applications were very similar to each other so they often are able to cut and paste information from one application to another and use data for reporting sometimes for multiple organizations. While keeping data updated may be hard for some organizations, The Industrial Commons uses the data gleaned from the stringent reporting requirements by Golden LEAF and ARC to pursue other funding opportunities.
While Collier agreed that using the data from other applications was smart, she warned the attendees that they must make sure they are addressing the correct funder. She noted that she had seen instances where another funder was mentioned in an ARC application. Collier also pointed out that funders talk to each other. When an applicant mentions another funder, Collier will pick up the phone and connect with the other funder to compare notes on a project. She mentioned that in the past, organizations seeking funding would ask for the same amount of money for the same project from multiple funders. While Collier noted it’s not always a guarantee you will receive funding, it is important to let each funder know that you are going to apply for multiple grants supporting the project. It is just as important to let each funder know if you receive additional funding for a project.
Sometimes a project is not fully funded. When that happens, Hunt and Stockham said we go back to the spreadsheet and see what organization can take on a different part of the funding of the project. They also said, sometimes we have to cut a piece of the project or make the project work with less funding. Both Hunt and Stockham agreed that Golden LEAF and other funders like ARC are particularly helpful in working on the grant requirements and connecting with other funders. They said that working with your program officer is a great way to learn more about what is needed in advance or reporting and ways to collect the data. They also said that program officers often know who might fund a particular part of a strategy.
ARC and Golden LEAF are natural partners in funding economic development strategies. Collier said she works with dozens of funders and talks with them regularly to maintain relationships and to see who is or isn’t funding a project. The same is true of the Golden LEAF Foundation. Reaching out to these organizations early on as a strategy is forming is often key to knowing what funders to bring to the table to support the parts of the strategy. Collaborative funding is a big part of building the economy and each funder has their own priorities and rules around what they can fund.
North Carolina has a strong economic development network to tap into. It is important to work on collaborative efforts often to build the buy-in on a project, leverage those relationships and knowledge, and fund the strategy through multiple partners.
Surry County SchoolsPriority Area Program Area Project Summary
The Industrial CommonsPriority Area Program Area Project Summary