On Thursday, Gov. Roy Cooper announced a new initiative, Hometown Strong, where the state will partner with local governments to strengthen local economies through infrastructure improvements.
Hometown Strong will work with local leaders to stimulate rural economies and help businesses thrive in the state’s rural communities by focusing on projects such as infrastructure improvements, broadband access, and workforce training, according to a release from Cooper.
“Small communities like the one I grew up in have a special character and so much to offer. They deserve a real partner in state government and a chance to thrive,” Cooper said. “That’s Hometown Strong.”
The initiative will work through existing and new partnerships between local leaders, businesses, non-profit organization, and others, working to leverage state and local resources to develop local improvement projects.
The initiative also seeks to coordinate conversations between state and local agencies, and identify long-term projects that can encourage prosperity in rural communities.
“Helping rural North Carolina thrive is one of my top priorities,” Cooper said. “Families in rural communities aren’t looking for mandates from Raleigh – they want state government to listen and help when asked. We’ll listen to local leaders to make sure they’re getting the support they need to help their communities prosper.”
Cooper has appointed two people to lead the initiative, both have previously served in state government.
Cooper appointed Pryor Gibson and Mary Penny Kelley to lead Hometown Strong.
Gibson is a former member of the North Carolina General Assembly, where he represented Anson, Montgomery and Union counties.
He also served as executive vice president of the North Carolina Forestry Association and as senior adviser for governmental affairs for former Gov. Bev Perdue.
“When you face a challenge in small towns like mine, you solve it by bringing everyone around the table. That’s an idea that state government could use more of,” Gibson said. “There is so much to be excited about in North Carolina’s rural communities and Governor Cooper has made it clear that they should have a real partner in Raleigh. I look forward to getting to work.”
Kelley formerly served as senior advisor for policy and innovation at the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and served as an executive attorney with DEQ for nearly a decade.
Kelley also worked as an assistant attorney general under Cooper while he was elected as state attorney general.
Initial partnerships between rural counties and Hometown Strong will be announced this spring, according to the release.