The American Rescue Plan

Find out what it means for our region

Area Agency
on Aging

Community & Economic



Economic Development

Program Pages

Chapter 160 D

Opportunity Zones

Rural Food Business Assistance Project

Foothills Launch! for the Isothermal Region

Broadband Resources

Regional Tourism Asset Map

Parks and Recreation Planning

Agricultural Economic Development

Economic Development Resources

Foothills Launch Heads to McDowell County for Next PopUp Office

After a successful popup office in Cleveland County, offering two Foundations Business Planning Courses, coaching sessions, and numerous loan consultations, Mountain BizWorks is headed to open their next popup office in McDowell County in September 2019. This popup office will offer open office hours for two days a week, one-on-one coaching services, and support for Marion Business Associations’ GEM Program.

Learn about the upcoming classes being offered across the four-county region by clicking here.

Learn more about Mountain Biz Works’ Foothills Launch! For the Isothermal Region here.

ARC 2020 Resources

ARC Application Topic Area Guidance:

Click here to view the NC Commerce ARC Program web page.

Click here to view the Appalachian Regional Commission website.

Contact Steve Lockett for more information or to discuss potential project ideas.

Agricultural Economic Development Metrics for the Isothermal Region

The Isothermal Regional Economic Development Strategy identifies Agriculture as a Target Industry Cluster. More specifically, the strategy describes action steps to increase the export value of agricultural products in our region by 5%, increase the number of local food outlets by 10%, grow the number of agricultural producers by 10%, and increase collaboration among industry stakeholders by 2022 through a focus on production agriculture.

What are the Agriculture Economic Development Metrics for our Region and our Counties here in the Isothermal Region?  For this information, we will use County Ag Profile info-graphics from the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) to provide a visual interpretation of the 2007 & 2012 Census of Agriculture data, which is collected and maintained by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for all 100 counties in North Carolina.

The info-graphics are intended to provide each county and council of government region with a simple, clear snapshot of local agriculture and the many ways in which it impacts local economies. The link to these graphics across North Carolina can be found here. The Ag Profile for the entire Isothermal Region can be found on that page and below.

For additional, more current local context, the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP) reports the findings from an analysis of primary data exploring changes in the growing practices of farmers producing food for local markets in Western North Carolina from 2008 to 2016 found here and a 2017 Produce Survey Report found here.

2020 NC Development Tier Designations

Since 2007, North Carolina has used a three-level system for designating development tiers. The designations, which are mandated by state law, determine a variety of state funding opportunities to assist in economic development.

Our Region’s Tier ratings (McDowell, Polk and Rutherford) are unchanged from last year.

This report documents the process for calculating tiers and lists counties that have changed tiers since 2019. A North Carolina tier map and tier calculations are included for reference.

EDA Resources:

2018 Annual Evaluation of North Carolina Economic Performance

EDA Offers Public Works and Economic Adjustments Grants to Advance Development Priorities

EDA Provides Technical Assistance Grants to Advance Development Priorities

Strategic Investments in Action: The U.S Economic Development Administration’s Role in Advancing Economic Development in North Carolina

North Carolina Opportunity Zones Program

Opportunity Zones are a new community development program established by Congress in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 to encourage long-term investments in low-income urban and rural communities nationwide.

In December 2017, Congress signed into law H.R. 1 (the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act), designed to provide tax incentives to fund new investments in underserved low-income communities.  As part of this new legislation, the Opportunity Zones Program provides tax incentives for qualified investor to re-invest into low-income communities, with each state authorized to designate up to 25% of its total low-income census tracts as qualified Opportunity Zones (low-income census tracks are areas where the poverty rate is 20% or greater and/or family income is less than 80% of the area’s median income).

North Carolina has just over 1,000 qualifying low-income census tracts, including areas in McDowell, Rutherford and Cleveland counties.  There are still many steps before this program can be fully implemented, and the Commission will stay on top of ongoing developments.  If you would like to learn more about the program, please here.

Understanding the Opioid Crisis in Appalachia

The Appalachian Regional Commission just released a new data visualization tool illustrating the impact of the opioid epidemic in the Appalachian Region and its relation to socioeconomic factors such as unemployment, poverty, education, and disability.

ARC Executive Director Scott T. Hamilton said this tool could be “valuable to communities developing comprehensive strategies to address the epidemic.”

This information is concerning. However, We are blessed, here in the Isothermal Region with people who want to change the trajectory of this issue.

Click here to view and interact with the new mapping tool. 

2018 North Carolina Employer Needs Survey 

The Labor & Economic Analysis Division of the North Carolina Department of Commerce has released the 2018 Employer Needs Survey.  This is a representative survey of all NC employers with 10+ employees.  Nearly 2,000 completed surveys from all 100 counties.  Click here to view the report!