Rural and Urban: Agenda



Welcome and Overview  |   

There is a common and growing perception of a divide between rural and urban communities. Where economic growth was once a shared characteristic of both locations, there has been a steady economic decline in many rural communities in the last several decades. But the story is much more nuanced—the success of rural and urban areas varies widely. What is clear is that rural and urban communities are highly interconnected—by workforce, natural assets, supply chains and other elements. Boundaries are increasingly fluid. Finding ways to more effectively promote and leverage these interconnections could lead to shared prosperity across the state.

Speakers:  • Chancellor Randy Woodson, NC State University • Leslie Boney, Institute for Emerging Issues

Igniting Idea

Thriving by Design – Rural & Urban Together to create the One Minnesota Equity Blueprint

The One Minnesota Equity Blueprint is a rural urban socioeconomic contract that will help achieve an inclusive economy, just society, and vibrant democracy in Minnesota, with and for all Minnesotans (by measures of inclusive economy and equity, civic engagement, and closing the education achievement gap) before or by 2033, Minnesota’s 175th statehood anniversary.
Speaker:  • Jane Leonard, President, Growth and Justice, Minnesota

RUral-Urban Divide: myth and reality

A rural-urban divide implies two things: 1) there is an “us” and a “them,” and 2) that we aren’t working together. New national data reveals perceptions that rural and urban communities have about one another. Statewide data illustrates the blurring of boundaries and tests assumptions about rural and urban North Carolina.  

Speaker:  • John Hood, President, John William Pope Foundation

  • What Unites and Divides Urban, Suburban and Rural Communities
    Speaker: • 
    Juliana Menasce Horowitz, Associate Director of Research, Pew Research Center
  • The Blurring of North Carolina’s Boundaries
    Speaker: • 
    Lee Worsley, Executive Director, Triangle J Council of Governments

Networking Break


We’re More Connected than You Think

It’s a global economy and we need to work together across our divisions to be competitive. Or it won’t be win-lose for urban and rural, it will be a lose-lose for the state.
• Leah Brown, Managing Partner, CORDS (Community-Centric Opioid Research and Data Services) & IEI National Advisory Board Member • Brian Dabson, Research Fellow, School of Government, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

  • The Business Case
    • Speaker:  •  Laura Lane, President, Global Public Affairs, UPS
  • The Public Sector Perspective 
    • Speaker:  • Dennis Alvord, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Regional Affairs, U.S. Economic Development Administration 
  • A Necessity for Nonprofits/Civic Institutions
    • Speaker:  • Dana Weston, President & CEO, UNC Rockingham Health


Igniting Idea

Faith at Work: Context in Conversations

This presentation will highlight the Northern Piedmont District of the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church (Guilford, Rockingham, and northern Randolph Counties) and the Beloved Community Center.
Speakers:  • Rev. Maria King, Congregational Vitality Specialist, Northern Piedmont District of the Western North Carolina United Methodist Church • Rev. Wesley Morris, Senior Pastor, Faith Community Church, Beloved Organizing, Training and Healing Initiative (BOTHI) Director, Beloved Community Center

The North Carolina Imperative
  • Speaker: • Governor Roy Cooper


MOVING TO SOLUTIONS: Innovation in Rural and Urban Cooperation

Local communities and organizations—with their traditions, willingness to work, and history of coming together in the toughest of times to solve the biggest of challenges—can help reconnect our rural and urban communities. This session will showcase examples of communities that are actively working on successful efforts to address shared challenges or promote and more effectively leverage interconnections between different community types (i.e., rural, suburban, and urban). It will also highlight the inspiring stories of how five communities are building intentional connections between rural and urban North Carolina.
Speaker:  • Travis Mitchell, UNC-TV


The Five Community Initiatives are:

  • Carolina Core
  • Growing Outdoors WNC
  • Project Empathy
  • Project 40


philanthropic community response

Speakers:  • Dan Gerlach, President, Golden LEAF Foundation • Karl Stauber, President & CEO, Danville Regional Foundation • Jennifer Tolle Whiteside, President & CEO, NC Community Foundation


broadband: perils and possibilities

A dynamic discussion about the possibilities and realities of where we are with broadband in NC. 
• Senator Harry Brown, NC General Assembly • Jean Davis, President & CEO, MCNC 

Networking Break

BREAKOUT SESSIONS: Issues that Impact Rural and Urban North Carolina

These sessions will address the 2-3 issues within the topics below that have significant relevance to rural-urban interconnectedness. Technological opportunity and leadership are cross-cutting themes under each issue. Every forum participant will have the opportunity to share their voice and brainstorm mutually beneficial strategies for rural and urban communities.

  • Affordable Housing: Rural-urban strategies to increase affordable housing stock
    • Tyran Hill, Business Development Officer, NC Community Development Initiative
    • Yvette Homles, Vice President of Resource Development and Partnership, DHIC
    • Senator Floyd McKissick, NC General Assembly
    • Keith Walker, CEO & President, East Carolina Community Development Initiative
  • Opioids and Behavioral Health: Rural-urban strategies to address opioids and behavioral health
    • Fred Wells Brason II, President & CEO, Project Lazarus
    • Senator Don Davis, NC General Assembly
    • Maggie Sauer, Director, Office of Rural Health, NC Department of Health and Human Services
  • Culture and Recreation: Rural-urban strategies to promote events and open space
    • Susi Hamilton, Secretary, NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources
    • Sig Hutchinson, Commissioner, Wake County
    • Juvencio Rocha, Executive Director, Association of Mexicans in North Carolina, Inc. (AMEXCAN)
  • Transportation: Rural-urban collaboration on transportation strategies
    • Representative John Torbett, NC General Assembly
    • James Trogdon III, Secretary, NC Department of Commerce
  • Workforce Development: Rural-urban collaboration to meet regional workforce needs
    • Tammy Childers, Executive Director, Eastern Carolina Workforce Development Board, Inc.
    • Stephanie Deese, Executive Director, NC Association of Workforce Development Boards
    • Nathan Ramsey, Director, Mountain Area Workforce Development Board
  • Economic Development: Rural-urban cooperation on economic development
    • John Chaffee, President & CEO, NCEast Alliance
    • Kenny Flowers, Assistant Secretary for Rural Economic Development, NC Department of Commerce



Leaders in public policy and the media will discuss and debate what they believe it will take for rural and urban communities to work together to leverage interconnections. They will then look towards their own sectors for solutions.
Speaker:  • Tom Campbell, Creator, Executive Producer, and Moderator of NC SPIN

  • NC Policy Leader Response
  • Media’s Role in Shifting the Narrative
    • Melanie Sill, Senior News Consultant, N.C. Local News Lab Fund
    • Allen Johnson, Editorial Page Editor, Greensboro News and Record
    • Ken MacDonald, Publisher, The News-Journal (Raeford, NC)



Speakers: • Leslie Boney, Institute for Emerging Issues (IEI) • Patrick Woodie, President, NC Rural Center • Jeff Michael, Director, UNC Charlotte Urban Institute