Golden LEAF SITE Program aims to bring more jobs to rural North Carolina

Golden LEAF SITE Program aims to bring more jobs to rural North Carolina

Apple. Google. Fidelity. Toyota. These large corporations and others are coming to North Carolina, with plans to create or add thousands of jobs.

The common bond? These big companies often end up locating in heavily populated, more affluent counties who have potential industrial sites prepped and ready for economic development.

A new program from Golden LEAF aims to give the state’s rural and economically distressed counties a hand with the site development process to help them attract businesses and grow their job base. To that end, WithersRavenel has been working with Golden LEAF to develop their unique SITE Program.

Through the program, governmental entities and 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit organizations can submit applications for funds to be spent on services in one of three phases in the industrial site development process:

  • Identification: Financial and professional support to identify potential sites in places where quality sites currently do not exist.
  • Due diligence: Financial support to complete the necessary preliminary activities prior to development, such as an environmental assessment, mapping or archeological analysis.
  • Development: Financial support for necessary services such as water and sewer infrastructure or site clearing and rough grading.

WithersRavenel Director of Economic Development Arthur Salido is among team members working with Golden LEAF on the SITE Program process development.

“We’re helping Golden LEAF put the program together,” he said. “We’ve worked closely with Golden LEAF to develop the criteria to evaluate project applications. We’re also serving as content experts throughout the application review process for Golden LEAF and its board.”

A unique and important feature of the SITE Program is that it does not require matching funds from most applicants that are approved. If the applicant is a Tier 1 or Tier 2 county, which tend to be more economically depressed and are Golden LEAF’s principal focus, there is no match required.

“Golden LEAF’s mission is economic development,” Salido said, noting that the first round of economic development funding was recently approved by the foundation’s board. Counties where projects are located include Macon, Montgomery, Halifax, Nash, Alexander, Yancey, Cumberland, Duplin, Franklin, McDowell, and Rockingham. A second round of applications will be solicited in early 2022, and more economic site development services will be funded.

The ultimate goal is to help rural counties create viable sites for companies looking to relocate or expand to North Carolina. With the state continuing to garner top honors on a regular basis for both its business climate and quality of life, the time to prepare these sites is now.

Golden LEAF is not alone among groups touting economic development in North Carolina. WithersRavenel also works with Duke Energy on its Site Readiness Program, which aims to add jobs in the Tar Heel state as well. Additional programs include the N.C. Electric Cooperative Ready Sites Program and Build Ready Sites from the North Carolina Railroad Company.

And while Golden LEAF has millions of dollars allocated for its SITE Program, North Carolina is providing more money for economic development.

“WithersRavenel is proud to be Golden LEAF’s partner in creating the SITE program, which is unique in providing much-needed funding and resources to spur economic development in communities across North Carolina,” Salido said. Through the program, WithersRavenel has not only been able to solidify relationships with counties and communities where we are already working on projects, but we’ve also been able to engage with new partners through economic development.

Additionally, Salido said that WithersRavenel is hoping to help communities and organizations across the state by exploring other development initiatives linked to health, education, or specific employment sectors.

For more information on the Golden LEAF SITE Program, visit their website. If you have questions about economic development or site readiness, reach out to Arthur Salido at (828) 423-6248 or asalido@withersravenel.com.