In the nearly two years since the Richmond Fed began partnering with community leaders to help small towns and rural areas across five states become economically sound, an alliance has formed that could be game-changing.
Together, these leaders and the bank strategized to establish the Rural Investment Collaborative, an initiative that aims to help communities across Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia develop successful proposals that can secure funding for their local projects.
Members of the Rural Investment Collaborative’s steering group and project development workgroup have partnered with the bank’s Community Development team to advance the effort, and their first signature project launches – a 12-week virtual program called the Community Investment Training.
“This training will equip 20 rural leaders, who were selected by the Collaborative’s steering group and project work group, to receive strategic guidance on how to meet the requirements for significant funding opportunities,” said Jason Smith, the Richmond Fed’s senior community development advisor, who is leading the Rural Investment Collaborative.
Smith added, “Some of these rural areas have not had the resources, capacity, nor the access needed to develop proposals that would secure large-scale funding. The Community Investment Training will teach them how and what to do, and when.”
Members of the 2024 Community Investment Training cohort hail from rural regions across five states in the Richmond Fed territory. They each submitted ideas for a local community project they would like to have funded.
During the training sessions, Collaborative leaders and guest speakers will walk them through the steps to creating effective partnerships within their communities, honing their funding pitches, developing the infrastructure to sustain their projects and more.
This year’s Community Investment Training participants are:
Stefanie Johnson, Executive Director, His Hope Ministries, Caroline County, Maryland
Craig Sewell, Project Director, Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission (SMADC), Anne Arundel County, Maryland
Carla Wilson, Project Manager, St. Mary’s County Community Development Corporation, St. Mary’s County, Maryland.
Paula Swepson Avery, Executive Director, West Marion Community Forum Inc., McDowell County, North Carolina
Angela Caraway, Executive Director, The Caraway Foundation, Anson County, North Carolina
Mavis Hill, Executive Director, Tyrrell County Community Development Corporation, Tyrrell/Washington County, North Carolina
Anthony Tyre, Executive Director, Clear Point, Beaufort County, North Carolina
Chester Williams, Chief Executive Officer, A Better Chance A Better Community (ABC2), Enfield/Halifax County, North Carolina.
Kim Bowman, Founder, South Carolina’s Rural Innovation Network (SCRIN), Darlington County, South Carolina
Steven Brown, President and Founder, Dreams Imagination & Gift Development Program (DIG), Barnwell County, South Carolina
Eric Delgado, City Administrator, Laurens, South Carolina
Michael Mahaffey, Director of Regional & Global Initiatives, Stoll Industries, Abbeville County, South Carolina
Elizabeth Overton, Deputy Director, Southeastern Housing and Community Development, Barnwell County, South Carolina.
Shelby McDowney, Director of Marketing & Communications, Metropolitan Business League, Brunswick County, Virginia
Katie Ryan, Interim CEO/Director of Operations, Clifton Forge School of the Arts, Clifton Forge, Virginia
Melisha Wynne, Assistant Recreation Director, Town of Abingdon Recreation Department, Washington County, Virginia.
Jarrod Dean, Executive Director, City of Williamson Board of Parks and Recreation Commission, Mingo County, West Virginia
Victor Farmer, Director, Boone Memorial Hospital Community Health Foundation/Boone Memorial Hospital Inc., Boone County, Virginia
Jamila Jones, President, Innovative Community Solutions, Jefferson County, West Virginia
Jennifer Phar, Community & Business Development, Director, Element Federal Credit Union Kanawha County, West Virginia.
Collaborating to improve capital access in small towns and rural communities is a core focus for the Richmond Fed.
Carrie Cook, the bank's community affairs officer and vice president of Community Development, noted that the partnership with rural leaders and with funding organizations is part of what makes the approach to advancing economic mobility for under-served communities innovative.
The Richmond Fed hosted a daylong rural funders event in May 2023, which included leaders from Bloomberg Philanthropy, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, The Harvest Foundation and other entities, to gauge their interest in learning more about rural funding needs and to determine how they as funders might collaborate on streamlining access to public and private investment.
“Availability of funding does not mean that all rural communities are able to access it,” said Smith, the initiative's leader.
Smith added, “The Collaborative partners want to understand how the supply of money to rural communities could be better coordinated so that more small towns can benefit. They plan to use this information to improve their own funding processes and to inform other decision-makers.”
This year’s training cohort members will apply the knowledge they’re gaining in weekly sessions to the draft proposals for their community projects. The training sessions will culminate with an opportunity to practice their proposal presentations.
Each participant also will receive a $2,000 grant provided by the Collaborative that they can use to develop a coalition of local support for their project proposals.