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Promoting Economic Development in Rural North Carolina: Five Complimentary Strategies

Carolina Small Business Development Fund Research Report and Executive Summary


Like many other states, North Carolina’s population dynamics have shown a definitive shift toward greater urbanization. Some of the population increase in urban areas is in-migration from outside the state. However, net population loss in many of North Carolina’s rural areas has been on the rise for years. Population outflows of this magnitude can bring an array of unique challenges for rural small firms. Chronic rural issues like unfavorable geography, endemic poverty, and poor infrastructure for business can pose serious economic development challenges. According to some scholars, level of rurality or geographical isolation is the primary variable in explaining why economic development outcomes vary across the United States. We assess the literature to determine what role small business development and other complimentary have in rural economic growth.


The peer reviewed literature has offered numerous solutions to problems surrounding economic development in rural communities. The creation of sustainable economic development in rural areas has been called a “perennial challenge” in which no strategy has ever succeeded long-term. However, we find evidence that some types of strategies that compliment small business development – especially a focus on education and human capital – could be especially effective in promoting rural economic outcomes.


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McCall, Jamie. 2021. “Assessing the Evidence: Five Complimentary Strategies for Promoting Economic Development in Rural NC – Education, Workforce Development, Infrastructure, Healthcare, and Leadership.” Carolina Small Business Development Fund. Raleigh, NC.

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