On Tuesday, March 21st, I had the opportunity to present at the 2023 Rural Summit, hosted by NC Rural Center. The Rural Center was founded in 1987 with the vision of improving the quality of life for all rural North Carolinians. Their mission is to develop, promote, and implement sound economic strategies that serve our state’s 78 rural counties, operating with the core belief that our rural communities have inherent cultural value and are vital to the overall economic health of North Carolina. The positive impact in rural communities is tangible, through leadership and small business development, microenterprise lending, and advocacy in key issues like healthcare, infrastructure, and disaster recovery.
This year’s Rural Summit engaged over 400 advocates from across the state with the central focus of “Driving Policy Change: All Roads Lead to Rural.” These “Drivers” are the people, communities, and businesses that contribute to rural NC’s resilience. The day-long conference included remarks from Rural Center President and CEO Patrick Woodie, an appearance and greeting from Governor Roy Cooper, a legislative panel with leaders from the state General Assembly, and breakout sessions covering topics like housing, climate resilience, bridging the digital divide, and healthcare.
I presented a session entitled “Rural Housing: Affordability, Accessibility, & Policy Solutions” in collaboration with UNC-Greensboro’s Center for Housing and Community Studies. My distinguished co-presenters were Bruce Rich, Director, and John Sunjata, Program Coordinator. In the hour-long discussion, we presented data on the current state of housing, as outlined in the Coalition’s County Profiles, our 2023 Policy Agenda, stories from impacted community-members, and examples of innovative solutions developed around housing and transportation seen across the country. In addition to our presentation, there was rich discussion amongst participants where we heard about the experiences and work of local advocacy leaders.
Throughout the Summit, there was an underlying theme that true change across a number of issues starts at the local level, through partnership and advocacy between stakeholders, community members, and city/county elected officials. I was fortunate to have been invited to speak as well as witness so many people truly dedicated to improving the lives of rural North Carolinians – I very much look forward to continued partnership and relationship-building with NC Rural Center.