Reconnect 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 • Jack Cecil, Biltmore Farms

Defining The Challenge  


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.

  • The Business Case
  • The Public Sector Perspective


What’s Holding us Back?

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.  

  • American Life in Urban, Suburban and Rural Communities
  • The North Carolina Rural-Urban Divide: Myths and Realities


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. 

  • Best Practices from Across the Nation
    Introduction by Karl Stauber, President & CEO, Danville Regional Foundation
  • Stories from North Carolina
    Introduction by Leah Brown, President & Managing Partner, CORDS (Community-Centric Opioid Research and Data Services) & IEI National Advisory Board



North Carolina’s philanthropic community can be a catalyst for rural and urban cooperation. This session will address current efforts by funders in the state to promote regional strategies and what communities need to know and do to be competitive grantees.

  • Philanthropic Panel


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
  • Health
  • Tourism, Arts & the Environment
  • Infrastructure
  • Workforce Development
  • Economic Development



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.

  • NC Policy Leader Response and Discussion
  • Media’s Role in Shifting the Narrative
  • The North Carolina Imperative



Speakers: • Leslie Boney, Institute for Emerging Issues (IEI) • Warwick Arden, Provost, NC State University