Past Initiatives and Programs

Golden LEAF Opportunities for Work (GLOW) 2020

GLOW was launched in 2020 when both labor force participation and unemployment were low. The initiative focused on providing workers with barriers to employment the knowledge, skills and support they need to gain quality jobs in order to provide employers with the workforce to meet their needs.

Priorities for the initiative were as follows:

  • Close the skills gap by targeting working-age adults who are pursuing work but who face significant barriers to employment, are underemployed, or are experiencing long-term unemployment.
  • Provide opportunity for working-age adults to obtain post-secondary credentials.
  • Increase the skilled workforce.
  • Increase the labor participation rate.
  • Prepare working-age adults for employment in high demand fields in their community or region.

Competitive proposals demonstrated that the proposed project would do the following:

  • Be part of a creative and comprehensive approach for re-engaging individuals into the workforce by leveraging existing federal, state, and local workforce development resources and by encouraging collaboration among multiple organizations and across sectors.
  • Identify and assist populations experiencing significant barriers to employment, long-term unemployment and/or underemployment in North Carolina’s tobacco-dependent, economically distressed and/or rural communities that are not adequately served by existing workforce education and development strategies.
  • Lead to the placement or advancement of participants in permanent, full-time jobs that provide a living wage or wages that meet or exceed the county average.
  • Address the recruitment, assessment, training, and job placement needs of participants.
  • Have a strategy to sustain the program after Golden LEAF grant funding ends and will be replicable or scalable.

In June 2020, Golden LEAF awarded 10 GLOW projects totaling more than $3.49 million to organizations serving 10 counties.

Community-Based Grantsmaking Initiative

An initiative that will expand to all regions in the state, the Community-Based Grantsmaking Initiative launched in the summer of 2013 in the Northeast as a continuation of the Foundation’s community-based grantsmaking and as a response to completion of the Community Assistance Initiative. The Foundation will invite counties to apply to participate in the Initiative by region. The Initiative is competitive, but all counties within a designated region will have an opportunity to apply to participate.

The Initiative is designed to identify those projects that are ready for implementation and have the potential to have a significant impact. It is a focused process with grants targeted toward investments in the building blocks of economic growth. Grants are limited to projects that address agriculture, education, workforce development, infrastructure, health care infrastructure. Grant awards will be typically limited to 1-3 projects per county and total no more than $1.5 million per county. Not all counties will have funded projects.

Each county manager serves as the key contact of the process, in terms of responsibility for submitting a slate of projects that are ready to go; however, projects do not have to be administered by county government. All counties in the invited region can submit a slate of projects to be reviewed; however, not all counties will be invited to submit proposals for this Initiative, and not all submitted projects will be funded.

In June 2014, 14 grants totaling more than $9.6 million were awarded to organizations in the Northeast Prosperity Zone. In June 2015, Golden LEAF awarded 21 grants totaling more than $12 million to organization in the Sandhills and Northwest Prosperity Zones. In 2016, Golden LEAF awarded 29 grants totaling more than $18.2 million to organizations in the Western and Southeastern Prosperity Zones. In 2017, Golden LEAF awarded 29 grants totaling $20.8 million to organizations in the Piedmont Triad and Southwestern Prosperity Zones. 

For more information on the initiative, contact Ted Lord at [email protected].

Disaster Recovery Grant Program

The State of North Carolina provided $60 million in funding to the Golden LEAF Foundation through the Disaster Recovery Acts of 2016,  2017 and 2018 to make grants to local governmental entities and 501(c)(3) nonprofits working to recover from Hurricane Matthew, the western wildfires, Tropical Storm Julia or Tropical Storm Hermine. Eligible projects include: repair or replacement of existing infrastructure; infrastructure to support new housing development; repair or replacement of equipment; and construction, replacement, or improvement of public infrastructure to support hazard mitigation. To date, the Golden LEAF Board has acted on all 2016 and 2017 disaster recovery applications.

Disaster Recovery Loan Program

As a result of Hurricane Matthew, the western wildfires, or Tropical Storms Julia and Hermine, more than 30,000 businesses suffered physical or economic damage affecting more than 400,000 employees. The Disaster Recovery Act of 2016 (S.L. 2016-124) appropriated State funds in the amount of $5,000,000 to the Golden LEAF Foundation to provide grants to eligible entities capable of making loans to small businesses affected by these disasters. Golden LEAF Foundation awarded eligible 501 (c)(3) non-profits and/or governmental entities with grant funds to provide loans to affected small and medium-sized businesses. Preference was given to applicants that demonstrated experience in small business lending through established loan programs.

In April 2017, Golden LEAF awarded a total of $5 million to the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center, the Carolina Small Business Development Fund, and the North Carolina Community Development Initiative Capital, Inc for the Disaster Recovery Loan Program. Click the links above for more information.

Major Site Development Initiative

The Major Site Development Initiative was developed to help ready large sites to attract major employers to rural, tobacco dependent, and economically distressed areas of North Carolina. To be as competitive as possible, those sites must be served by public infrastructure, such as water and sewer, to reduce the time it will take for the employer to complete site development and begin operations. In the MSDI, the Golden LEAF Foundation awarded grants to governmental entities or 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit organizations to fund construction or improvement of public infrastructure that serves publicly owned or publicly controlled industrial sites that have the potential to attract employers that can create a large number of jobs and have a significant positive effect on the local, regional, and state economy.

In December 2016, Golden LEAF awarded 5 grants totaling $25 million to support the initiative. The NC Rural Infrastructure Authority awarded approximately $10 million to support 5 projects in the MSDI.

Click here for more information on the initiative.

2015 Health Care Workforce Initiative

The Golden LEAF Board of Directors approved a new health care initiative at their December 2014 meeting. The 2015 Golden LEAF Health Care Workforce Initiative is a special grant initiative of the Board of Directors intended to reduce deficits in the number of professional and highly skilled health care workers in rural, underserved areas of North Carolina. Golden LEAF awarded grants of up to $500,000 to support projects that demonstrate the ability to:

  • Increase the number of practitioners and highly skilled health care workers in rural North Carolina, especially in Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) and Persistent Primary Care Health Professional Shortage Areas (PHPSAs), thereby creating employment in the health care industry and increasing access to health care in rural North Carolina, and
  • Aid the development or expansion of innovative, community-based health care delivery models that help create jobs for and retain health care professionals and highly skilled health care workers in rural North Carolina especially HPSAs and PHPSAs by supporting collaborative models between employers of health care workers and educational or training institutions.

Golden LEAF awarded 9 Health Care Workforce Initiative grants totaling more than $3 million to organizations across the state.

Essential Skills in Advanced Manufacturing Initiative

The Golden LEAF Board of Directors created a special initiative supporting targeted occupational and technical training programs that prepare students for identified employment opportunities in advanced manufacturing and other high-wage technical occupations. This workforce preparedness grant initiative is aimed at closing the skills gap through collaborative programs that increase the talent pool of a highly skilled, technical workforce aligned with identified employment opportunities of industries located in tobacco-dependent, economically distressed and/or rural communities in N.C.

Program Priorities included:

  • Comprehensive training programs (credit, noncredit and college transfer) that represent systematic approaches to closing the skills gap and increase the talent pool for advanced manufacturing and other high wage, technical employment opportunities in NC.
  • Enhancement of technical (essential skills) training capabilities where the grant requested from Golden LEAF would complement, not supplant, other sources of funding.
  • Programs that represent collaborative efforts among community colleges, 4-year institutions, high schools, local industry and other community stakeholders.
  • Program design that provides flexible, hands-on training to prepare students with the requisite occupational, career and 21st Century skills required for identified employment opportunities.
  • Training programs that utilize stackable credentials to maximize multiple entry and exit points between education and employment and promote life-long learning.
  • Emphasis on building regional training capacities that target local employment opportunities in NC industries with priority given to the following sectors: automation, aerospace, automotive, food processing, transportation and logistics, and plastics, rubber, metal and wood fabrication.
  • Integration of third-party credentials endorsed by local and regional industry partners to create portable skill development.
  • Emphasis on work-based learning experiences such as apprenticeships and internships.

In two rounds of funding, Golden LEAF awarded 23 Essential Skills in Advanced Manufacturing grants totaling more than $10.9 million to organizations from Jackson County in the west to Pasquotank County in the east.

Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative

In 2010, the Golden LEAF Foundation Board of Directors awarded $24 million grant to MCNC for the Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative (GLRBI). The grant provided matching funds for Round Two of the federal Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP2), which was made possible through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Broadband Recovery Funds and funded through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. MCNC received $75.75 million from BTOP2 to support the GLRBI.

The GLRBI was completed in the Spring of 2013 and now provides a total of 69 counties in rural northeastern, north central, northwestern and south central North Carolina with high-speed broadband fiber, which includes approximately 1,300 miles of new, middle-mile fiber throughout the state. In addition, about 400 miles of existing fiber was made available to support the Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative through lease agreements and donations.

The initiative will greatly increase the broadband capacity and stabilize bandwidth and Internet access costs for public school systems, community college campuses, libraries, universities, and other community anchor institutions that connect to NCREN. The high-speed connectivity provides 4,066 community anchor institutions with fiber connections, including 1,718 K-12 schools, 61 community college main and satellite campuses, and 33 baccalaureate degree-granting, four-year colleges and universities. In addition, 254 public libraries, and 1,887 municipal, county and state public safety facilities are served.

Click here for more information about the Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative including the list of counties served.

Golden LEAF STEM Initiative

The Golden LEAF Foundation created a special initiative geared toward preparing North Carolina’s youth for careers requiring skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), due to the growing need for these skills in industries across the state. The focus of the initiative is to support successful models that increase STEM education for students in grades 4 through 9 in rural, economically distressed and/or tobacco-dependent counties of North Carolina.

Priorities for this initiative include projects that have the following characteristics: represent collaborative efforts aimed at preparing students to be college and/or career ready in disciplines that require strong STEM skills; have data demonstrating successful outcomes in student enrollment and achievement; represent collaborative arrangements among educational partners and industry targeting the current and future employment opportunities of a region or local area; and focus on rural, Tier I and Tier II, and/or tobacco-dependent counties that currently have low concentrations of STEM programs.

Competitive proposals for this initiative target under-represented minorities, females and limited resource students. Applicants are encouraged to think regionally, draw connections to industry sectors, and align with outcome measures in college and career readiness, student achievement, participation and engagement, teacher effectiveness, and other economic impact measures.

Eligible organizations include 501(c)(3) nonprofits or governmental entities that serve the people of North Carolina and are local education agencies, universities, community colleges or direct providers of training.

The Foundation has awarded 16 grants totaling $5.8 million for this initiative.

Rural Hope Initiative

The Rural Hope Initiative, which began in 2009, supported projects designed to enable better health care delivery and job creation by assisting in the construction and expansion of rural healthcare facilities The healthcare industry serves as an economic driver in rural communities as it often is a top employer and plays a part in the ability to recruit citizens and companies into these areas. In three cycles of funding, beginning in 2009, Golden LEAF has awarded 20 grants totaling over $3 million. Projects were awarded to organizations from Cherokee County in the west to Pitt County in the east.

Through the Rural Hope Initiative, Golden LEAF has collaborated with the NC Rural Economic Development Center, the Health & Wellness Trust Fund, USDA Rural Development and the Appalachian Regional Commission, Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, and the North Carolina Office of Rural Health and Community Care.

Golden LEAF Loan Program at Self-Help

The Golden LEAF Loan Program at Self-Help is a $5 million program that provides loans to help businesses access capital during tough economic times. The Self-Help Credit Union administers the loan program. Golden LEAF funds are to be used as a loan loss reserve and are expected to leverage an estimated $25 million in loans to North Carolina business owners.

Priority for the Golden LEAF loans has been placed on North Carolina businesses in the following industries: healthcare, construction, green industries, agriculture, or manufacturing. Minority and women business owners are strongly encouraged to apply. Businesses must be located in economically distressed or tobacco-dependent counties.

For more information about how to apply for a Golden LEAF loan, contact Karen O’Mansky at (919) 956-4400 or by e-mail at Karen.O’[email protected]. Self-Help ( is a nonprofit lender whose mission is to create ownership and economic opportunity through: financing for small businesses, community facilities, and home ownership; downtown revitalization and affordable housing development; and responsible consumer financial services. Self-Help has branches across North Carolina.

Local Foods Initiative

New economic opportunities for North Carolina farmers and businesses have grown as a result of an increased public interest in locally grown foods. In response, the Golden LEAF Foundation Board of Directors developed the Local Foods Initiative.

The primary goal of the Local Foods Initiative was to improve and expand farmers’ access to commercial, institutional, and retail markets that were increasing their use of local foods, especially those markets willing to pay a premium for local products. The Foundation funded projects that addressed some or all of the following issues: 1) the need for farmers to meet the food safety and certification standards and related expectations of the marketplace; 2) the coordination of production and distribution necessary to satisfy business and consumer demand; 3) the availability of infrastructure for aggregation, rough preparation, and intermediate processing; and 4) the marketing required to create and sustain demand for local foods.

The Foundation awarded 12 grants totaling more than $1.8 million for this initiative to organizations from Haywood County in the west to Dare County in the east.

Click here to learn more about this initiative.

Golden LEAF Opportunities for Work in Aerospace Manufacturing

In 2009, the Foundation created the Golden LEAF Opportunities for Work in Aerospace Manufacturing (GLOW-AM) as a special initiative of Golden LEAF intended to address some of the urgent workforce requirements North Carolina faces in labor markets with high concentrations of aerospace industries and in regions where aerospace manufacturing is emerging as a new economic engine.

Golden LEAF provided support to the NC Eastern Region to complete a statewide workforce needs assessment and educational gap analysis for the emerging aerospace industry in North Carolina. In response to the findings, the Foundation requested proposals from direct providers of training that address the workforce development challenges identified in the report by strengthening training capacities in regions of the state that have high concentrations of aerospace manufacturing companies and maintenance, repair and overhaul operations.

This workforce development grant initiative supported direct training programs targeting identified employment opportunities in tobacco-dependent, economically distressed and/or rural communities. The expected outcomes of projects include the eligibility of trainees for placement in permanent, full-time, high quality jobs in the aerospace industry.

To date, Golden LEAF has awarded 10 grants totaling over $4.6 million for the GLOW-AM Initiative.

Golden LEAF Opportunities for Work

In 2008, the Golden LEAF Opportunities for Work (GLOW) program was created to address some of the urgent job training needs North Carolina was facing during the economic downturn. GLOW was a short-term, non-degree workforce development grant initiative that supported vocational and/or technical training programs targeting identified employment opportunities in tobacco-dependent, economically distressed and/or rural communities. The expected outcome of the projects awarded under this initiative was the eligibility of trainees for placement in permanent, full-time jobs requiring their new skills.

Golden LEAF awarded over $3 million in grants to support 22 projects ranging from Newland, NC in the west to Elizabeth City, NC in the east. Priority was given to projects that will have a positive effect on tobacco-dependent, economically distressed and/or rural communities that demonstrated strong demand for trainees.

1:1 NC Learning Technology Initiative

In 2007, Golden LEAF provided funding, along with SAS and the NC General Assembly, to launch a demonstration pilot called the 1:1 NC Learning Technology Initiative. The goal of this public-private partnership was to assist with high school reform efforts by supplying computers to students and teachers in school districts across our state, primarily in rural communities. The initiative supports development of adequate infrastructure for Internet use and multimedia curricula, as well as proper training for teachers. In addition, the program has evaluation instruments to measure the impact of the 1:1 initiative on student engagement and academic achievement.

The purpose of this initiative was to create a model to guide the development of a 21st century learning environment for North Carolina’s public high schools. In this setting, learning is relevant to real-world applications, students are more fully engaged and take ownership of their learning, and teachers are able to open new learning opportunities to their students. The result: increased graduation rates, teacher retention, and student performance. Through this powerful public-private partnership, we envision creating a repetitive model that can be used by every North Carolina school to enable students, teachers, and administrators to make optimal use of the technology to enhance teaching and learning and make it relevant to twenty-first-century job opportunities.

The potential of 1:1 learning is realized most in classrooms characterized by academic rigor, real-world experiences, and high-quality teaching that incorporates research on teaching and learning outcomes. Ultimately, our goals for the 1:1 initiative are to:

  • Encourage collaboration between students, teachers, and parents
  • Teach problem-solving skills
  • Sharpen teaching skills
  • Encourage students to take ownership of learning
  • Level the playing field for students across socioeconomic lines
  • Improve educational infrastructure
  • Make classrooms look and function like the twenty-first-century workplace
  • Develop best practices for repeatable successes throughout the state

Schools participating in the demonstration pilot program are:

  • Nash-Rocky Mount Early College High School
  • Wayne Early/Middle College High School
  • Sandhoke Early College High School
  • Davidson Early College High School
  • Rutherford Early College High School
  • Macon Early College High School
  • Wilson Hunt High School
  • Edgecombe County high schools: Tarboro, North Edgecombe, Southwest Edgecombe and Edgecombe Early College high schools
  • Whiteville High School
  • Wilkes County high schools: East Wilkes High, North Wilkes High, West Wilkes High, Wilkes Central High, and Career and Technical Education Magnet schools
  • Jordan-Matthews High School

In addition to the demonstration pilot, 14 school districts are receiving funding from the Department of Public Instruction and Golden LEAF and support (coaching, planning and professional development) from the Friday Institute. These school districts will be connected with schools already implementing 1:1 teaching and learning initiatives and will be supported with best practices and lessons learned from the pilot initiative. School systems receiving 1:1 support for high schools are:

  • Beaufort County Schools
  • Craven County Schools
  • Granville County Schools
  • Jones County Schools
  • Madison County Schools
  • McDowell County Schools
  • Mitchell County Schools
  • Onslow County Schools
  • Rowan-Salisbury Schools
  • Scotland County Schools
  • Surry County Schools
  • Vance County Schools
  • Watauga County Schools
  • Weldon City Schools

Community Assistance Initiative

Launched in 2007, the Community Assistance Initiative was a grants program that targeted communities of need and provided direct support for projects that significantly enhance the quality of life for citizens within those communities by stimulating economic activity or providing assistance in overcoming barriers to economic transition or community progress.

The initiative was created by Golden LEAF in response to concerns that some of the state’s most distressed communities were not the direct beneficiaries of the foundation’s grantsmaking. By working directly with those communities, foundation staff and board were able to understand community priorities and challenges and were able to assist those communities in establishing a priority list of proposals for funding consideration.

Building on initial success, the Community Assistance Initiative targeted North Carolina’s Tier One counties, considered the most economically distressed counties in the state.

With Golden LEAF staff and board members working directly with county leaders and citizens, proposals were developed following a process whereby the community reaches consensus on the key issues and objectives that it would like to target and then establishes a priority list of projects that have the most potential for positively affecting the key issues and achieving the desired objectives.

The Foundation reserved $2 million per county, but grant award amounts varied.

Hallmarks of the Community Assistance Initiative include the following:

  • Direct engagement with communities
  • Open, transparent process
  • Consensus on key issues
  • Consensus on process for prioritizing projects
  • Emphasis on action and project implementation
  • Leverage community investments in planning
  • Focus on “moving the needle”
  • Communities set the pace
  • Development of ongoing relationships

The initiative which was launched in 2007 and completed in 2013 culminated in a total of 196 grant awards totaling more than $87 million.

Aerospace Alliance Initiative

In 2005, the North Carolina Aerospace Alliance took flight, thanks in part to a grant from Golden LEAF. As a voluntary association of independent companies, academic institutions, and not-for-profit organizations, the alliance focuses on creating opportunities for North Carolina companies to manufacture spare parts for aging military systems.

The Alliance is a government and industry partnership established to support the Department of Defense and defense contractors. As many systems age, spare parts are hard to find and costly. North Carolina can fill the need for critical aviation parts with the manufacturing capabilities. The DoD wins with improved weapon system readiness and substantially reduced cost of ownership and operation. North Carolina gains a new sustainable industry that will bring more defense dollars to the state.

To create resources for the alliance, Golden LEAF awarded grants to North Carolina State University and Western Carolina University to fund the development of reverse engineering capabilities for North Carolina aerospace companies interested in pursuing these opportunities. Additional Golden LEAF grants went to Lenoir Community College and Haywood Community College to establish advanced machining training centers to train a new generation of aerospace machinists.

Through this initiative, Golden LEAF has also played a significant role in enabling statewide job creation in the aviation sector and more broadly in defense contracting. The Alliance helped connect companies to resources (capital, metal fabrication companies, and defense contacts) and build a sector that reaches from Murphy to Elizabeth City. Golden LEAF grants have made it possible for ten organizations to build increased training capabilities and assisted county and local governments and nonprofits with public infrastructure improvements and fair market value leases to enable job creation.

NC Aerospace Alliance Initiative Results:

  • Job creation estimates: 1,358 new and 75 retained
  • New training locations:Western NC — Haywood Community College Regional High Technology Center (Haywood County), Tri-County Community College (Murphy), Wilkes Community College (Alleghany, Ashe, Wilkes counties)Central NC — North Carolina A&T (Greensboro), Hickory Engineering Center [Appalachian State University (Boone), Western Carolina University (Cullowhee)], North Carolina State University College of Engineering (Raleigh)Eastern NC —Elizabeth City State University (Elizabeth City), Lenoir Community College (Lenoir)
  • Company locations and expansions in the following counties: Ashe, Beaufort, Buncombe, Burke, Cherokee, Guilford, Jones, Lenoir, Pasquotank, and Wake.


In August 2003, Golden LEAF made a historic grant to establish the North Carolina Biomanufacturing and Pharmaceutical Training Consortium, now called NCBIOIMPACT to assist with workforce development requirements in the biotech and life science industries. Since then, the foundation has awarded nearly $69 million to this landmark effort, which is transforming the biotechnology landscape and generating significant, quantifiable economic gains throughout the state.

Including three leading educational institutions, the NC Biotechnology Center, and the North Carolina biotechnology industry, NCBIOIMPACT brings assets from every sector together to form a powerful collaboration. With strong financial and professional support from the biotech industry, the educational partners — the North Carolina Community College System, North Carolina Central University, and North Carolina State University — have created an unprecedented statewide network of integrated and comprehensive workforce training programs. These programs are designed to develop a highly skilled biotechnology and pharmaceutical workforce for the 21st century. Several thousand students have already received training through NCBIOIMPACT and, as all components become fully operational, the annual number of students served could easily surpass 10,000.

NCBIOIMPACT continues to raise the bar of achievement for not-for-profit, government, academic, and industry partnerships. It is looked upon as a model throughout the biotechnology community worldwide.

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