• 3:30 pm Bladen County Sheriff’s office receives recognition for participation in Operation Medicine Drop Take Back Event
  • 3:13 pm A Pinch of Butter blog started by Bladen County native
  • 1:16 pm Vidant Health and Cape Fear Valley Health form partnership to address chronic health conditions
  • 10:57 am Coming soon: World Series for two local baseball teams
  • 5:57 am Thoughts While Shaving for July 22

By: Charlotte Smith

Elizabethtown Chamber of Commerce Dr. Patricia Mitchell

Dr. Patricia Mitchell, also known as “Pat”, spoke at the Elizabethtown-White Lake Chamber of Commerce about the Rural Division and the programs they have to help rural communities. The Rural Division was formed by legislation in July 2013, and Dr. Mitchell was appointed by the Secretary in September 2013 as the Assistant Secretary of the NC Department of Commerce/ Rural Economic Development Division.

Prior to joining the Chamber of Commerce, Mitchell served nine years as the Director of Economic Development for Ashe County, NC, with the last two years as the County Manager. She also currently teaches at an adjunct professor in the Master of Public Administration program at Appalachian State University and in the Leadership in the Public Sector Program at the NC State University.

Within the Rural Division, Mitchell is responsible for a number of programs including: CDBG-Economic Development grants; building reuse and economic infrastructure rural grants; Division of Community Assistance; NC Main Street; Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC); and the Industrial Development Fund grants. She serves on a number of boards and commissions, including: DENR’s State Water Infrastructure Authority; Duke Energy’s Community College Foundation grant making committee; and is an Alternate for Governor McCrory on the 13-state Appalachian Regional Commission.

Mitchell began her presentation by explaining the Rural Infrastructure Board, which is a 16 member board, that began granting in December of 2013. Mitchell said, “By policy the board meets every other month. One month we are taking applications and the next month we are actually awarding money. Since December 2013, when we first began with Rural Grants, the Community Development Block Grants, and the Utility Fund, to our last meeting on April 23rd we have bestowed grants totaling $58 million, most of which is from the Tier 1 and Tier 2.” Bladen County is a Tier 1 County. Mitchell recognized, Mr. Charles DeVane from Elizabethtown, one of the 15 appointed board members of the Rural Infrastructure Board in attendance at the luncheon. Mitchell said, “My hats off to all the 15 appointed board members. I sincerely appreciate the board members.”

Mitchell then spoke about the Economic Advancement and Planning Program. The Economic Advancement and Planning Program partners with counties and towns to add value to community and regional economic development efforts. Rural communities that may be planning future economic expansion, adding to existing structures, or developing in an economically challenged area, Economic Advancement and Planning staff can help them reach their goals through targeted assistance in three core areas: economic development analysis, special projects support, and grant assistance. 

A new program that was launched about a month ago was introduced at the meeting by Mitchell. She said, “I want the managers to pay close attention because this could be an opportunity for you all.” Commerce Fellows – Building Community through Capacity and Knowledge is the new opportunity. The program is a collaboration among the NC Department of Commerce Rural Economic Development Division CDBG program, Appalachian State University (ASU), East Carolina University (ECU), and UNC-Chapel Hill School of Government (UNC SOG). The Department of Commerce will offer grants to local governments to enable them to engage in high-quality professional development and training with an eye toward improving opportunities for LMI individuals. Applications are due by 5:00 on June 15, 2015.

Chuck Heustess, Director of Economic Development mentioned that, Bladen County has received grant funding from the Building Reuse Grant for a poultry plant in Bladenboro. Eddie Madden, Town of Elizabethtown Manager, said Elizabethtown had received about $300,000 from the grants available to build the Cape Fear Farmers Market. For more details about information given at today’s meeting visit, www.nccomerce.com/rd, or you may contact Dr. Mitchell directly.

Trey Ducan

Trey Duncan, Elizabethtown-White Lake Chamber of Commerce President

Before the meeting ended Trey Duncan, the Elizabethtown-White Lake Chamber of Commerce president for the past three years was recognized for all his hard work and dedication by the Chamber’s Executive Director Dawn Manyard. Duncan’s term will conclude in June of this year.

Duncan reminded everyone about the White Lake Water Festival this weekend, May 15th and 16th, the Annual Chamber Banquet that will be held June 16th at Lu Mil Vineyard. Following the banquet the Summer Concert Series will begin the 2nd and 4th Thursdays of July and August.