August 2018

Did you miss us? After a post-Rural Day, summer hiatus, the Rural Counts newsletter is back in action with lots of updates for the start of fall.

First and foremost, we have added to the team! Tiffany Gladney started this week as our new policy and government affairs manager. You can read more about Tiffany and her position below, but take it from me: she is going to be a fantastic addition to the Rural Center staff.

Also, make sure to mark your calendars for our upcoming Zero Barriers Policy Roundtables. These seven regional sessions will put you in the driver's seat as we map out our 2019 policy priorities.

In this edition of the newsletter we also have a recap of the 2018 legislative session, information about this year's Rural Assembly, upcoming opportunities from partner organizations, and recent news for rural advocates.

Thanks for your commitment to rural North Carolina. We look forward to seeing you on the road this fall, and at the Rural Assembly in November for our annual "homecoming." 

John Coggin
Director of Advocacy
Rural Center hires Policy & Government Affairs Manager

We are proud to announce that, just this week, Tiffany Gladney joined the Rural Center team as our new policy and government affairs manager.

This is a new position at the Rural Center and will add capacity for the Rural Counts advocacy program. Tiffany will serve as our primary liaison to elected leaders and staff at the state and federal levels of government. She will be working with all of our advocates across the state to develop and advance the Rural Center's policy agenda.

Gladney is a communications and advocacy professional with nearly 10 years of experience. Dedicated to leaving North Carolina a little better than she found it, Gladney has effectively advocated for several pieces of legislation that have led to improved birth outcomes, enhanced newborn screening, and funding for tobacco cessation and preconception health initiatives.

Prior to joining the Rural Center, Gladney served as the director of advocacy and government affairs for March of Dimes-North and South Carolina. During her five years with the foundation, she worked to streamline branding, increase mission awareness, recruit volunteers, and grow the organization's annual advocacy event, Lobby Day.

A Winston-Salem native, Gladney graduated from North Carolina State University with a bachelor of arts degree in communication media in 2009. Her career kicked off as the communication specialist at Saint Augustine's University. In 2015 actor, comedian, and writer Jerrod Carmichael hired Gladney as the social media consultant on his acclaimed nationally televised show, The Carmichael Show. During her tenure, she successfully rebranded the show's collateral and worked closely with NBC executives to ensure all social media content accurately and consistently reflected Carmichael's intentions and voice.

Gladney's proudest professional accomplishment is the passage of SB 98, legislation aimed at screening newborns for critical congenital heart defects. At the age of 12, she lost her older brother to an undetected congenital heart defect. Although the loss was unexpected and traumatic, Gladney uses it as motivation: "My career is undoubtedly a vehicle to keeping my brother's legacy alive and gives the void his death created a strange but meaningful purpose," says Gladney. "Working on important, lifesaving policies not only fulfills me professionally but heals me personally. I just hope he's smiling down and helping me on this crazy journey called adulthood." 

In her free time, Gladney enjoys reading, interior design DIY projects, and trying out new recipes.

We hope you will get the chance to meet Tiffany soon, either at one of our upcoming policy roundtables or at the Rural Assembly in November. In the meantime, please join us in giving her a warm welcome to the Rural Center family!
Regional conversations will inform and shape our 2019 policy priorities

Seven free public regional roundtables will be held in September and October. 

From its very beginning, the Rural Counts advocacy program has been committed to taking its lead from the wisdom of local champions and Rural Center partners. 

After collaboratively developing our 10 strategies agenda in 2016, we spent a year on the road hosting listening sessions and visiting with leaders from each of the 80 counties we serve. Those conversations helped us articulate the top economic development priorities facing rural North Carolina: broadband, health, and small-business development.

Now, it's time to put meat on the bones of those issues and find solutions that will work for our entire state.  

We hope you will join us for (at least) one of seven Zero Barriers Regional Policy Roundtables this fall. These day-long sessions will feature in-depth discussions about each of our three top policy issues. We will present suggestions of policies that may make a difference, and then we want your feedback on what is good, what is bad, and what is missing.  We will use your feedback to shape specific policy recommendations for the NC General Assembly to consider when it convenes for the 2019 session next January.

See below for the dates and locations of the roundtables. We hope you will join us for part or all of the day for the roundtable nearest to you!  Registration is free but required. 

Tuesday, September 25 Perry Memorial Library Henderson
(Vance County)
Register Here
September 27
James Sprunt Community College Kenansville
(Duplin County)
Register Here
October 9
Graham County Community Room Robbinsville
(Graham County)
Register Here
October 10
Mayland Community College Spruce Pine
(Mitchell County)
Register Here
Wednesday, October 17 Eastern 4-H Center Columbia
(Tyrrell County)
Register Here
October 23
Surry Community College Dobson
(Surry County)
Register Here
October 24
Montgomery Community College Troy
(Montgomery County)
Register Here

Each event will run from 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. and feature 90-minute conversations about each of our three policy areas: broadband, health, and small-business development. Breakfast, lunch, and snacks will be provided. 

The detailed agenda for all events will be:

9:00 a.m. - 9:45 a.m. Breakfast & Networking
9:45 a.m. - 10:00 a.m. Welcome & Introductions
10:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. Broadband
11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Lunch & Networking
12:30 p.m. - 2:00 p.m. Health
2:00 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. Break & Networking
2:30 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. Small Business
4:00 p.m. Closing


It's that time of year again! Join us November 15-16 at the Hilton North Raleigh Midtown to continue our conversation about rural leadership and the critical role that innovation plays in a community's ability to achieve their goals for the future.

Revving the Rural Engine: Local Leaders Driving Innovation is two days full of content and conversations focused on how communities can use innovation to engage the next generation of rural leaders and help them to race toward their own better and brighter tomorrows.

Featuring the Authors of Our Towns!
In their national best-selling book, Our Towns, James and Deborah Fallows chronicle their four-year odyssey in which they visited often overlooked cities and towns across America.

Registration Details

$225 Early Bird Rate (August 15-September 30)
$275 Regular Rate (October 1-November 1)

Register today - space is limited!


For more information about the event, please visit

For questions about registration, please contact Jenny Grant, executive team manager, at or 919-250-4314.

For questions about sponsorship opportunities, please contact Liz McFarlane, director of philanthropy, at or 919-250-4314.

For media inquiries, please contact Todd Brantley, senior director of public affairs, at or 919-250-4314.

2018 NCGA session truly "short," but saw gains for rural NC

The General Assembly convened in May with a focus on revising the state budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The NCGA also passed a number of separate pieces of legislation while in Raleigh. The Rural Center is pleased to report that the General Assembly passed several important items related to our top advocacy priorities.

Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT)

When the Rural Center launched our Rural Counts advocacy platform, the only dollar amount we included was a suggested $10 million recurring appropriation for a state-based grant program for incentivizing deployment of broadband infrastructure to the last mile.

This session, under the leadership of Senator Harry Brown and Representative Dean Arp, the budget included a $10 million provision for a program to provide state matches to private investment in broadband infrastructure in rural areas of North Carolina.

This broadband grant program has been our top advocacy priority, and we want to thank both our state legislators for passing the provision and all of our advocates who spoke up in support of rural broadband.

Even in the midst of celebration, we know there is much more work to be done. We hope that this pilot program is institutionalized and expanded in upcoming sessions, and that it is paired with other efforts to expand access to affordable internet in rural North Carolina.

Improving Rural Health (H998)

In January, the Rural Center presented to a special committee of the General Assembly focused on expanding access to health care in rural North Carolina. We made several recommendations to the committee about policies that would help train and attract quality providers. Almost all of those recommendations were included in the committee's final report, which was developed into the Improving Rural Health bill and passed this session.

The Rural Center thanks that committee and its chairs, Representative David Lewis and Senator David Curtis, for their commitment to rural health.

We look forward to seizing upon the momentum of this session to pursue other top priorities for rural health next session, including closing the coverage gap and expanding opportunities for telehealth.

...and There's More!

Read our full synopsis of the session on the Rural Center website. The run-down includes details about the budget, several public bills, and the Build NC Bond.
Saturday, September 15, 2018

J oin NC REALTORS  in Wilmington for a day-long forum featuring a dynamic panel and workshops with real estate influencers.

Bringing together public and private sectors, REALTORS and consumers, influencers and regulators, visionaries and implementers, this day-long event is designed to solve real problems, such as smart growth, affordable housing and disaster planning, and make a positive impact on real estate, communities, and economic development. The day is packed with panel discussions, community tours, and workshops. You don't want to miss this. Our future depends on it.

Featuring keynote  Vivian Howard and a featured cast of experts:
  • Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist and Senior Vice President of Research, National Association of REALTORS┬«
  • Ted Abernathy, Managing Partner, Economic Leadership
  • Napoleon Wallace, Deputy Secretary for Rural Economic Development and Workforce, Department of Commerce 
  • Patrick Woodie, President, NC Rural Center
  • Scott Farmer, Executive Director, North Carolina Housing Finance Agency
  • Steve Yost, President, North Carolina Economic Development Association
  • Steve Googe, Economic Development Consultant
ReConnect to Community
Monday, September 17, 2018

North Carolinians are stepping away from community life -- from interactions in our neighborhoods, engagement in our schools, civic organizations, government, and faith communities-- threatening our ability to solve major challenges and maintain economic competitiveness. IEI's  ReCONNECT to Community Forum  explores this rise of disengagement and provides strategies to re-energize citizens, focusing on solutions that work. The Forum will be highlighting community initiatives from across the state and sharing their innovative strategies to engage their residents and solve local challenges.

This September in Asheville, the ReCONNECT to Community Forum will mark the first time in IEI's 30-plus year history that IEI has held a forum outside of Raleigh. With the ReCONNECT NC initiative, we are reaching out to and looking for ideas from communities across the state. Asheville, with its deep history of energetic civic and cultural engagement, is the ideal place to convene this crucial conversation on civic participation.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, 2018at the Crowne Plaza Resort Asheville! Network with leaders and learners from every North Carolina sector, region, and perspective. We welcome stakeholders and all members of the general public.


The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation believes that art can open the door to conversation. Our investment in inclusive public art is intended to share stories of diversity, equality, inclusion, and equity as they relate to the people and places of North Carolina, especially those whose stories are often untold. We hope that this effort will catalyze community conversations that can result in a shared, and fuller, understanding of our common history - and common bonds - as North Carolinians.

During the Foundation's recent, yearlong listening and learning tour, from 2016 to 2017, it was evident that legacies of racism and segregation were pervasive in many communities we visited, but are not discussed often in public unless there is a major issue involving race. Combined with the historic and recent controversies regarding public art, monuments, and race, the Foundation wanted to explore how art could serve as a starting place for people to engage in important - even difficult and courageous - conversations about their community's past, present, and future.

This initiative aims to include historically marginalized people in the decision-making processes about art in public places and is intended to spark healthy dialogue. The community engagement aspect of these grants will be just as important as the art installations themselves, and the Foundation is looking for communities that will authentically engage a cross-section of their communities in telling, discussing, and perhaps even producing the story(ies) depicted in the art.

Projects/installations should express/demonstrate/depict one or more of the following:
  • Contributions or achievements of a North Carolina person or group, especially women and people of color, whose story in a particular part of the state has not been or is not often told;
  • Ways in which the racial and ethnic diversity of our communities makes our communities better; and/or
  • Ways in which cultural differences strengthen our communities.
ZSR will invest in up to 10 projects with awards of as much as $50,000 each. Additional resources will be available for community engagement activities surrounding each art project. Grants will be made for visual art, not performance art.

Letters of Intent are due on October 8, 2018 (by 12:00 p.m. NOON). 

If you have questions about ZSR's Inclusive Public Art initiative, please contact project coordinator Brenda Miller Holmes at


Check out this amazing interactive infographic story from Bloomberg showing how Americans use the 1.9 billion acres of land in the 48 contiguous states to create wealth.

A recent policy brief from the Rural Health Research & Policy Centers explores the the number of pharmacy closures in rural America using new annual data.

Over the last 16 years, 1,231 independently-owned rural pharmacies (16.1 percent) in the United States have closed. The most drastic decline occurred between 2007 and 2009. This decline has continued through 2018, although at a slower rate.

Six hundred and thirty rural communities that had at least one retail (independent, chain, or franchise) pharmacy in March 2003 had no retail pharmacy in March 2018.

Read the entire policy brief here.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue recently announced the USDA is inviting comments on the implementation of the e-Connectivity Pilot Program established in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 on March 23, 2018.

USDA is developing this pilot program to catalyze private investment and bring broadband to unserved rural areas of the country. The new program provides a unique opportunity to develop modern methods to leverage federal funds to increase private investment in broadband services for as many rural American homes, businesses, farms, schools, and health care facilities as possible.

"I have traveled extensively across the nation, and everywhere I go I have heard how important broadband is to rural Americans," Secretary Perdue said. "Reliable and affordable internet e-Connectivity truly is the key to prosperity in the 21st Century, and I'm pleased Congress recognized this need and has provided this critical funding. Broadband e-Connectivity is the next interstate highway system of global commerce, and connecting rural areas to broadband will be a game-changer for our entire nation. It is not just a federal issue; our success will be forged through partnerships."

According to a 2018 report by the Federal Communications Commission, 80 percent of the 24 million American households that do not have reliable, affordable, high-speed internet are in rural areas. Without e-Connectivity, rural Americans cannot reach their full productivity in the workplace, receive the best education in schools nor the finest health care in hospitals.

This rural broadband pilot program was proposed by President Trump and was made possible by a $600 million appropriation from Congress in the Consolidated Budget Act of 2018. As a result, USDA is excited to be able to create new funding and finance offerings through this pilot program to expand rural broadband in underserved rural and tribal areas.

The framework outlined by Congress allows these new federal funds to be deployed in rural areas with a population of 20,000 or less. A wide variety of entities is eligible for funding, including incumbent and competitive rural telephone and broadband service providers, rural electric cooperatives, private firms (but not sole proprietors or partnerships), nonprofits, and governmental bodies. Rural areas with current internet service speeds of 10 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 1 Mbps upload at the household will be eligible to apply for the pilot program funds. The requirements on build-out speeds are not specified by the law and are therefore under development. See page 52 of the legislation for the full text (PDF, 2 MB).

USDA is seeking input as we develop the rules and requirements of the e-Connectivity Pilot Program. All stakeholders with an interest in rural broadband deployment are welcome to contribute. Specifically, comments on the following issues are sought:
  1. Ways of evaluating a rural household's "sufficient access" to broadband e-Connectivity at speeds of 10 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream, and how broadband service affordability should be factored in.
  2. Best options to verify speeds of broadband service provided to rural households.
  3. Best leading indicators of the potential project benefits for rural industries such as agriculture, manufacturing, e-commerce, transportation, health care, and education, using readily available public data.
USDA's goal is to make the most effective use of these new and innovative funds through utility partnerships, where possible. Public input on methods to evaluate the viability of applications that include local utility partnership arrangements is also being sought.
Comments are due on or before  5:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on  Monday, September 10, 2018, and can be submitted by either of the following methods:
  • Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to and, in the lower "Search Regulations and Federal Actions" box, select "Rural Utilities Service" from the agency drop-down menu, then click "Submit." In the Docket ID column, select RUS-18-TELECOM-0004 to submit or view public comments and to view supporting and related materials available electronically.
  • Postal Mail/Commercial Delivery: Please send your comments to Michele Brooks, Rural Development Innovation Center, Regulations Team Lead, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1400 Independence Ave., S.W., Stop 1522, Room 1562, Washington, DC 20250. Please state that your comments refer to Docket No. RUS-18-TELECOM-0004.
In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory, and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force's findings to President Trump. As proven by the report, e-Connectivity is more than just connecting rural America to rest of the world. It is a vital tool for productivity, education, and health care. These investments will be key catalysts for facilitating rural prosperity through economic development, workforce readiness, and improving quality of life.

To view the report in its entirety, please view the  Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (PDF, 5.4 MB). In addition, to view the categories of the recommendations, please view the  Rural Prosperity infographic (PDF, 190 KB).

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community services such as schools, public safety, and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit

Director of Advocacy
NC Rural Center