RALEIGH — Two Robeson County municipalities are among seven in North Carolina getting help over the next two years to rebuild their economies in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew through a recently announced program by the North Carolina Rural Center.
The center selected Lumberton and Pembroke to participate in the Small Business Recovery Program, which will provide long-term planning and technical assistance to those towns as Fair Bluff, Kinston, Princeville, Roseboro and Whiteville. The program also will provide a locally administered loan fund to promote entrepreneurship and small business development in each community.
“Hurricane Matthew had a devastating impact on the local economies of many small towns and communities in Eastern North Carolina,” said Patrick Woodie, Rural Center president. “The storm has passed, but the work to rebuild is just beginning, and we know any successful long-term recovery requires a long-term commitment.”
Each participating community will receive an initial $100,000 investment in their local loan funds. Additional resources are available to increase funds to nearly $300,000 to meet the local demand for small business loans.
“The loan funds place the decision making in the hands of the local community,” said Barry Ryan, Rural Center senior director of programs. “It means each community has a say in building its own future.”
The Rural Center will administer each fund and a committee of local leaders will direct the promotion of the fund and provide feedback on investment decisions.
But access to investment dollars is only part of the effort.
Rural Center business coaches will help each community create a tailored program to expand their capacity to identify, build, or invest directly in the assets needed to create an entrepreneur-friendly infrastructure in their community and to rebuild and strengthen their small business economy.
“Access to capital is only one component of a vibrant local economy,” Woodie said. “To seed long-term, sustainable growth, local entrepreneurs need technical assistance in developing business plans and local small business owners need help planning for the future. For many of these communities, the typical day-to-day struggles of owning a business were compounded with the arrival of Hurricane Matthew. It’s one thing to start or sustain a small business; it’s another to do it in the aftermath of a natural disaster.”
The seven towns chosen to participate in the program were selected through a vetting process. The Rural Center invited towns to submit letters of interest and documentation of the storm’s effect on their communities. Each application was reviewed by the center’s advisory committee before the final selections were made.
The Small Business Recovery Program was made possible with a grant from the Golden LEAF Foundation under the Disaster Recovery Act of 2016.
“Golden LEAF is pleased to support the Rural Center’s efforts to focus on communities that were hit hard by Hurricane Matthew, but are determined to rebuild and to grow,” said Dan Gerlach, president of Golden LEAF. “We believe this infusion of capital for private businesses will help catalyze and speed recovery and resilience.”