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N.C. Opinions: Rocky Mount

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Troubled Rural Center now seeking new role

From an editorial in the Rocky Mount Telegram on Tuesday:

A year after a scathing audit threw the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center into turnmoil, officials with the agency are looking for ways to shape a new role and future.

The N.C. General Assembly stripped the Rural Center of state funding after a 2013 audit uncovered poor bookkeeping practices and raised questions about the effectiveness of millions of dollars awarded in grants to help fledgling companies in rural parts of North Carolina. Lawmakers sharply criticized also the salary, severance package and retirement benefits plan of the center’s former director, Billy Ray Hall.

Lost in the sound and fury over the center’s poor decision-making was the fact that it has performed good works. Small companies have been able to grow and expand facilities through Rural Center grants. The N.C. Department of Commerce has since taken over those functions.

Now, center officials hope to find a new way to serve rural North Carolina. The center has put together an online survey to help determine the needs of the areas it serves. You can take the survey at www.survey monkey.com/s/Rural_Partners.

Responses are due by Friday.

Rural Center officials say they’ll report back in October with a new plan to determine “the scope and delivery of future programs and services.”

We can only hope the Rural Center’s efforts pay off. Rural North Carolina desperately needs the help.

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