Op-Ed: Golden LEAF awards more than $10 million in funding to support economic growth in Western North Carolina

Op-Ed: Golden LEAF awards more than $10 million in funding to support economic growth in Western North Carolina

By Scott T. Hamilton, Golden LEAF President, Chief Executive Officer

(Counties in the Western Prosperity Zone are Buncombe, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, Polk, Rutherford, Swain, and Transylvania)

(April 7, 2022) Since early 2021, Golden LEAF has been working in the Western Prosperity Zone through the Community-Based Grants Initiative. Golden LEAF’s 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. Awards are limited to up to three projects per county and total no more than $1.5 million per county. Regional projects are also considered under this program.

Golden LEAF partnered with the NC Rural Center to provide training and coaching for project teams through the Community-Based Grants Initiative. This available resource helped broaden the region’s leadership base, enhance community and regional collaborations, and develop strategic, innovative projects to transform the economy.

Today, the Golden LEAF Board of Directors awarded $10,108,307 in funding to support 14 projects in Buncombe, Cherokee, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Madison, and Transylvania counties. These projects have significant promise to build long-term economic growth.

Buncombe County, $296,794
Asheville-Buncombe Community Christian Ministry Inc. was awarded $296,794 to replicate, for women at its women’s transitional residential facility, an existing program at the organization’s residential facility for men that creates employment opportunities for those who are unable to find employment because of substance use disorders or who have a history of incarceration and homelessness.

Cherokee County, $1,500,000
Tri-County Community College was awarded $1 million to prepare an educational lab and simulation space for clinical training for establishment of a new medical sonography program.

The Town of Murphy was awarded $500,000 to increase the capacity of the section of its sewer system in an area that serves existing business and industry that are expanding and that is ideal for future industrial development and economic growth.

Graham County, $511,500
Graham County Schools was awarded $511,500 to establish a workforce development training facility that will  serve as the new location for two school-based businesses and provide real life training opportunities for students in the county.

Haywood County, $1,450,000
Haywood Community College was awarded $1.45 million for facilities to train individuals skilled to work in the high-demand infrastructure and construction fields including power line, broadband transmission, transportation, and construction industries.

Henderson County, $1,500,000
Blue Ridge Community College was awarded $1 million to expand agriculture programming to meet an emerging need among local growers and agribusinesses that use an automated growing system within a greenhouse, which is a standard practice in the area’s high-altitude environment.

St. Gerard House was awarded $500,000 for construction-related costs for the Phase I expansion that would allow the only comprehensive autism center in Western North Carolina to provide medically necessary services to an additional 50 clients within 24 months and pre-vocational training to an additional 28 young adults with disabilities. The expansion will add 40 new, full-time positions, provide training to some new workers who will earn 3rd-party/industry credentials, and allow the organization to begin responding to its waitlist of 130 families.

Jackson County, $1,405,337
Westbridge Vocational, Inc. was awarded $628,000 to secure and sustain a larger share of the medical device market, including expanding the number of contracts with existing customers. This business expansion will result in 25 new employees at an average hourly wage of $14 per hour and retain 35 existing employees.

Southwestern Community College was awarded $777,337 to support the expansion of SCC’s health sciences programs by providing simulated and live-patient training opportunities to graduate more “work-ready” health science professionals.

Madison County, $1,241,500
Madison County Public Schools was awarded $487,500 to add electrical, HVAC, and plumbing to the district’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) construction trades program to improve high school students’ employability. The construction trades program anticipates graduating at least 30 students per year who seek local employment.

Madison County was awarded $304,000 to expand and upgrade the Madison County Extension Value-Added Center and Inspected Kitchen located at the Madison County Extension Office. The Value-Added Center and Inspected Kitchen averages about 150 users per month.

Madison County was awarded $450,000 to renovate and upfit part of the remaining 3,800 square feet of the Spring Creek Community Center building to provide business support, retail sales, a community college distance training location, and income-producing rental spaces.

Transylvania County, $1,500,000
Transylvania County was awarded $1.5 million for Phase 2 of the expansion of the county-owned Sylvan Valley Industrial Center that would provide an additional 40,000 square feet of light manufacturing space. This project will help create at least 20 new jobs.

Regional Project, $703,176
Serving Haywood, Jackson, Macon, and Swain counties, HIGHTS Inc. was awarded $703,176 for a two-year project that will serve 50 disengaged high school graduates by pairing them with career mentors; placing them in work-based experiences in high demand like healthcare, construction, and technology; providing career exploration; and offering post-secondary enrollment support.

Through the Community-Based Grants Initiative, Golden LEAF worked in the Western Prosperity Zone for approximately 15 months culminating in these 14 awards. For more information about the Community-Based Grants Initiative, click here.

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