The City of Raeford is getting an anticipated $846,000 grant which it will use to improve and expand Robbins Heights Park.

Governor Roy Cooper announced the grant Tuesday as part of funding that 30 local governments in rural areas across the state will receive from the Rural Transformation Grant Fund, a new source of support for rural economic development projects in North Carolina funded by the federal American Rescue Plan. A total of $20.1 million will be issued in this first round of grantmaking from the Fund, which helps local governments overcome challenges that limit their economic competitiveness. The North Carolina Department of Commerce and its Rural Economic Development Division administer the $48 million grant fund.

Raeford City Manager Dennis Baxley said the money will be used to tear down the old store once run by Jack Tucker at the end of east 7th Avenue, address some environmental concerns associated with the old store, and pave the parking lot. He said it’s possible a soccer field will be added.

The new grant fund, the centerpiece of a broader Rural Engagement and Investment Program from the North Carolina Department of Commerce, addresses a wide variety of needs, from revitalizing downtown districts, building the capacity of local government staffs, revitalizing neighborhoods, fostering small business recovery, and generally supporting economic growth initiatives.

The Rural Transformation Grant Fund awarded grants in three categories today:

The Downtown Revitalization category supports downtown development initiatives that help grow and leverage a community’s commercial core into an asset for economic growth and prosperity.

The Resilient Neighborhoods category offers grants focused on community development and quality of life improvements, such as eliminating food deserts, creating healthy living initiatives, and increasing access to affordable housing options, among other initiatives.

The Community Enhancements for Economic Growth category, from which Raeford’s grant originates, provides grants to local governments to smooth the way for economic development opportunities, such as the acquisition of land and buildings, the preparation of business sites, and the removal of structural and physical barriers that may be limiting development.

Earlier, on May 24, a fourth category of the program known as Rural Community Capacity Building (RC2) announced an initial cohort of 19 communities across the state that would participate in an educational initiative to bolster the professional development and planning capacity of local government staffs.

“Economic development success requires extensive preparation and planning,” said North Carolina Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders. “I’m excited to see how this first round of grants will help many rural communities in North Carolina reach the next level of prosperity.”

“Today’s awards allow us to share more widely the best practices we know work well for rural economic development programs,” said Kenny Flowers, the Commerce Department’s Assistant Secretary for Rural Economic Development. “I look forward to working with these communities and others to come later, as we work to transform the economy in rural North Carolina.”

The application window for the second round of funding will open in early September of 2022. More information about the Rural Transformation Grant Fund is available at nccommerce.com/transform. A map displaying the locations of today’s awards is available here.

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