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First in Future: Golden LEAF Foundation President Dan Gerlach

Summary: In the late 1990’s, North Carolina leaders did something remarkable. As part of the national settlement agreement with tobacco companies, North Carolina was projected to receive an estimated $4.6 billion in payments, a couple of hundred million each year. Lawmakers mandated that a portion of the money go to establishing a foundation to help increase economic opportunity for rural and tobacco-dependent communities, a foundation known as Golden LEAF. This week’s guest, Dan Gerlach, is the president of the Golden LEAF Foundation. We talked about why he does the job, how he does it, the Foundation’s role in hurricane recovery, and the value of civic groups. We also talked about the importance of internships, Kinston’s mayor and…Notre Dame football.

This installment of First in Future is part of a special TV series produced in collaboration with UNC-TV, and recorded in UNC-TV’s Legislative Studio in downtown Raleigh. Taped segments will air on the North Carolina Channel. Visit for specific air dates.

Excerpt:“Urban economy and suburban economy [have] changed. It’s not people who remember what life was in rural North Carolina, it’s people who never had that experience…we all must grow together, it can’t be one against the other.”

Book recommendations:  The Vanishing American Adult by Ben Sasse and Glass House by Brian Alexander.

What key issues should we be working on within the next couple of years to make North Carolina a better place? Encourage young people (and maybe not so young) that post-secondary credentials are going to be helpful to them.

What do we need to focus on to be ready for the next 20 years?“How we solve this problem of rural areas is kind of backward. I see nothing backward about the rural areas that we’re in, about how we get them connected, whether it be through broadband or road or other kind[s] of infrastructure to make sure that there [are] abilities out there for those jobs that are suited for people without the disadvantage of distance disparcity. That will be the great challenge, but I think North Carolina’s up to it.”

Next great North Carolinian to watch? Chris Suggs with Kinston Teens and BJ Murphy, Mayor of Kinston – “…for making things better in Kinston. With rural leaders like [these] representing a very diverse set of people in Kinston, I have a lot of hope.”


Listen to the podcast: