The North Carolina Rural Infrastructure Authority (RIA) has approved 11 grant requests to local governments totaling $3,702,500. Some of those grants were awarded to governments in and adjacent to the Hickory Metro area.
The announcement was made late last week by Governor Roy Cooper. The requests include commitments to create a total of 486 jobs, 40 of which were previously announced. The public investment in these projects will attract more than $32 million in private investment.
The North Carolina Department of Commerce’s team of rural economic development professionals supports the RIA’s work. RIA members review and approve funding requests from local communities. Funding comes from a variety of specialized grant and loan programs. Grants can support a variety of activities, including infrastructure development, building renovation, expansion and demolition, and site improvements.
The RIA approved six grant requests under the state’s Building Reuse Program in two categories. In the Vacant Building Category one of the communities to receive a grant is the City of Lenoir. A $500,000 grant will support the reuse of a 74,646-square-foot building, where Exela Pharma Sciences, LLC, plans to establish operations. The company, a pharmaceutical manufacturer of generic and private label products, plans to create 50 jobs while investing $1,350,000 in the project.
In the Existing Business Building Category, Alexander County has been awarded an $80,000 grant to support the renovation of a 25,000-square-foot building in Taylorsville that is occupied by Industrial Timber, Inc., a manufacturer of wood furniture frames. The company plans to expand manufacturing operations through this renovation, while creating 10 jobs and investing $1,434,200.
The Rural Demolition program provides grants to local governments to support the demolition of a publicly-owned, persistently vacant building to encourage site rehabilitation and site availability for economic development purposes. Eligible applicants are units of local government located in either a Tier 1 or Tier 2 county, or a rural census tract in a Tier 3 county.
The RIA approved two requests under the state’s federally-funded Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) – Economic Development program.
One of those grants was awarded to Lincoln County. A $750,000 grant will support the renovation of a vacant building in Lincolnton. At this location, Hodges International, a small business that manufactures apparel and home textiles for retailers, plans to establish operations. This project is expected to create 104 jobs, with an investment of $6.3 million by the company.
The Industrial Development Fund – Utility Account provides grants to local governments located in the 80 most economically distressed counties of the state, which are classified as either Tier 1 or Tier 2. Funds may be used for publicly-owned infrastructure projects that are reasonably expected to result in new job creation. The IDF – Utility Account is funded through a process tied to the state’s signature Job Development Investment Grant (JDIG) program.
When JDIG-awarded companies choose to locate or expand in a Tier 2 or Tier 3 county, a portion of that JDIG award is channeled into the Utility Account.
In addition to reviewing and approving funding requests, the N.C. Rural Infrastructure Authority formulates policies and priorities for grant and loan programs administered by N.C. Commerce’s Rural Economic Development team. Its 17 voting members are appointed by the Governor, Speaker of the House and Senate President Pro Tem. The North Carolina Secretary of Commerce serves as a member of the Authority, ex officio.