Southwestern Commission 
News and Updates from around Region A
  The mission of the Southwestern Commission is to improve the quality of life in its seven county service area by assisting local governments in reaching their goals.
Senior Celebration a Smashing Success!
On Friday, September 7, 2018, over 480 seniors from around our seven-county service area gathered in the Ramsey Center at Western Carolina University to be treated to a day of music, food, fun, and celebration. With first-class sponsorship, support from the leaders in our seven counties, a dedicated event planning committee, senior center participation, and volunteers too numerous to mention, seniors who participated were shown how important their generation is to us and how we’ll continue to strive in our efforts to make their lives as comfortable and rewarded as possible.  
Prioritization 5.0 Update
NCDOT’s process to update the 2020-2029 State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) is winding down. The Statewide Mobility and Regional Impact funding categories have already been programmed, and we are currently assigning local input points to projects in the Division Needs category. The Southwestern Rural Planning Organization (RPO) was fortunate to receive funding for two projects in the Regional Impact category:

Jackson County: NC 107 / US 64 intersection improvements at Cashiers crossroads; and
Clay County: US 64 widening from Peachtree to Hayesville. 

The Southwestern RPO has assigned local input points to selected projects in hopes of getting them funded in the STIP. The selected projects reflect a balance between local priority and quantitative scoring. The results of the final Division Needs scores and the Draft STIP will be published in January 2019. 
Division of Water Infrastructure Training Workshop Held at Commission Office
On September 25th, the Southwestern Commission hosted the North Carolina Division of Water Infrastructure for a two-hour training in our office. In this training, geared toward county and municipal staff, representatives from Division of Water Infrastructure highlighted “North Carolina’s Statewide Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Master Plan: The Road to Viability”.  Representatives also highlighted funding opportunities that the Division has to offer.

Clean Water State Revolving Fund: Provides low-interest loans to local government units to fund wastewater collection and treatment facilities as well as programs associated with stormwater quality.
Drinking Water State Revolving Fund: Provides low-interest loans to local government units and certain non-profit water corporations for projects to provide safe drinking water. 
Community Development Block Grant – Infrastructure: Provides grants to local government units to address water and wastewater infrastructure needs in HUD-qualified low-to-moderate income communities.
State Wastewater & Drinking Water Reserve Programs: Provides grants for construction of critical needs for wastewater collection systems, wastewater treatment works, and public water systems.
Merger/Regionalization Feasibility Grant Program: Provides grants for studies to evaluate the potential consolidation of two or more systems into one system and the potential physical interconnection with another system for regional wastewater treatment or regional water supply.
Asset Inventory and Assessment Grant Program: Provides grants for developing asset inventories, condition assessment of critical assets, and other components of a comprehensive asset management program.
North Carolina League of Municipality Updates
Due to Hurricane Florence the Annual Conference, "City Vision", was rescheduled for May 15-16, 2019 and will be in Hickory as was the original plan.

The League's annual Advocacy Goals Conference will be in the Raleigh Civic Center on November 29. This is when towns and cities get together to discuss the legislative and regulatory priorities of the NC General Assembly's legislative biennium.

Locally, there will be a Regional Round Table on October 30 in the Sylva Town Hall from 11:30 to 1:00 PM. Register online on the League's Web Site.

Join us in Welcoming Linda Lamp to our Staff

Please welcome Linda Lamp to our staff! Linda is the new Business Services Representative in the Workforce Development Department, taking the place of David Garrett, who is now the Director of Workforce Development. 

Linda came to us from WNC Communities, a strong partner of the Commission's. We're delighted to have her on our team.
Upcoming "Financial Viability for Water Systems" Workshop
Registration is open for the upcoming workshop, " Financial Viability for Water Systems: Dealing with Declining Customers or Demands." This workshop will focus on helping water systems determine whether they face financial difficulties and also strategies on how to mitigate them for a long-term financial viability. Topics will include:

  • Trends in service populations and customer demands in NC
  • Financial impacts of declining populations and demands on utilities
  • How to determine your community's trends and revenue risk
  • Strategies for long-term financial viability in communities with declining populations and demands.

October 29, 2018
9:00 AM to 4:30 PM
Land of Sky Regional Council
339 New Leicester Hwy #140
Asheville, NC 28806

Registration for this event is free but required. The trainer for this workshop is Shadi Eskaf, Senior Project Director for the Environmental Finance Center at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Blue Cross Blue Shield Investment
North Carolina is the 10th hungriest state in the nation. In western North Carolina, one in six adults and one in four children struggle with hunger. It’s not uncommon for mothers and fathers to go without eating so their children will have food. Most that aren’t affected have no idea, and it’s not that they don’t care, they just don’t know.

On September 6, 2018, Sarajane Melton, Southwestern Commission’s Area Agency on Aging’s Administrator was on hand in Durham when Dr. Patrick Conway, President and CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina announced an investment of $2.6 million in three nonprofits fighting hunger across the state. Two of those benefiting western North Carolina are Meals on Wheels of NC and MANNA FoodBank. The funds will support food assistance programs and increase access to healthy foods in underserved communities, which in turn will increase the overall health of our state. 

Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation is giving all Tier 1 counties in North Carolina $10,000 a year for 3 years for the home delivered meal programs. There are currently thousands of seniors in North Carolina on a waitlist to receive Meals on Wheels, so this investment will help to close the wait list gap. In Region A the following counties will be receiving the funding: Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Jackson, Macon, Swain, and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

We are grateful for the generous gift and collaboration with Blue Cross Blue Shield.
Governor Announces Finish Line Grant Program
Governor Cooper announced the Finish Line Grants program, which will help community college students who face unforeseen financial emergencies to complete their training. The program will leverage up to $7 million in federal funds to help students pay for course materials, housing, medical needs, dependent care, or other financial emergencies that students may face through no fault of their own.

Too often, financial emergencies like unexpected healthcare costs, childcare expenses, or car breakdowns prevent community college students from completing their coursework and training. Finish Line Grants will help students reach that milestone when facing unforeseen challenges.  

Finish Line Grants will be a collaborative effort with the Southwestern Workforce Development Board and our local Community Colleges. On August 22nd, we submitted our Finish Line Grant application for Southwestern Community College and have been granted $50,000 to help with emergency needs for students who are close to finishing their training. Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) staff here at the Southwestern Commission have worked diligently to create guidelines and a process that will be quick and easy for the student, school, and our case managers. Proposals for Haywood Community College and Tri-County Community College are in the works.
Mountain West Partnership Video- "Planting the Seeds"
Southwestern Commission staff have been working for two years with partners at the NC Rural Center and the region’s Small Business Centers to support and grow the region’s food businesses. One focus of this program has been to offer scholarships so that food business entrepreneurs can pay for training to grow their business. We are pleased to announce that these funds will continue to be available through May, 2019. To learn more and sign up for the program, contact your local Small Business Center (contact information is below).

Another focus of this project has been to tell the story of food businesses in the region. To that end, we are proud to release the second video in a series of videos highlighting the culture and ingenuity that characterize our thriving food sector. Click HERE to view other videos in our series.
Harris Helps Present Regional Project at Brushy Fork Institute
The Brushy Fork Institute at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky, turned 30 this year, and Commission Staff member Russ Harris teamed up with the NC Rural Center and the region’s Small Business Centers to present at this year’s event. “Rural Agribusiness Development Through Regional Collaboration” was a presentation focused on the work that these partners have done over the last 3 years, which resulted in one out of every five agri-businesses in the region receiving scholarship funding and technical assistance as part of the project. This project also featured a video series, funded by the Cherokee Preservation Foundation and the NC Rural Center, telling the story of Agribusiness in Region A. These videos can be found on the Mountain West Partnership website.

The Brushy Fork Institute is a 3-day event, hosted by Berea College, that seeks to “empower Appalachian leaders with the tools, experiences, and networks to address local and regional challenges.”
Regional Updates
  • The Mountain West Partnership is now on Facebook and Twitter!
  • The Southwestern Commission is on Facebook! Be sure to "like" us for more regional information.
  • Congratulations to Southwestern Community College for being awarded a $2M grant from the US Economic Development Administration for their new health sciences building!
Regional Trainings and Events