Sampson Independent | The path to recovery

Roseboro mayor Alice Butler and the commissioners of the town have made it clear that their focus is on revitalizing the downtown area and attracting more businesses to the western Sampson County town.

A recent announcement that Roseboro will be receiving help over the next two years to rebuild its economy in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew opens doors for opportunities for such growth.

According to the release, the town of Roseboro is among seven communities across the state who have been selected by the North Carolina Rural Center to participate in the Small Business Recovery Program. Other communities selected were Fair Bluff, Kinston, Lumberton, Pembroke, Princeville and Whiteville.

“I am excited that Roseboro was awarded this program for two main reasons,” Butler said when asked about the announcement. “First, a coach from the Rural Center will help Roseboro leaders create a tailored program to create an entrepreneur-friendly infrastructure in our community and to rebuild and strengthen our small business economy.”

The program that will provide long-term planning and technical assistance to each town. Butler said monthly meetings will be established and continue for 12-16 months.

“Hurricane Matthew had a devastating impact on the local economies of many small towns and communities in eastern North Carolina,” Rural Center President Patrick Woodie said. “The storm has passed, but the work to rebuild is just beginning, and we know any successful long-term recovery requires a long-term commitment.”

The program will also provide a locally administered loan fund to promote entrepreneurship and small business development in each community. Each participating community will receive an initial $100,000 investment in their local loan funds. Additional resources are available to increase funds to nearly $300,000 to meet the local demand for small business loans.

“The Rural Center will seed a locally-led loan fund for Roseboro small businesses,” Butler explained. “The initial fund is $100,000 and Roseboro businesses will have access to additional funds based on demand and activity, which could result in a local revolving loan fund of $250,000-$300,000.”

According to Butler, the Rural Center will also provide underwriting and fund administration services for these loans.

“I am hopeful that some entrepreneurs will use these funds to fix up some of our downtown buildings and open new businesses in them,” the mayor added.

The Rural Center will administer each fund and a committee of local leaders will direct the promotion of the fund and provide feedback on investment decisions.

But, Rural Center staff say that access to investment dollars is only part of the effort.

According to the release, Rural Center business coaches will help each community create a tailored program to expand their capacity to identify, build, or invest directly in the assets needed to create an entrepreneur-friendly infrastructure in their community and to rebuild and strengthen their small business economy.

“Access to capital is only one component of a vibrant local economy,” Woodie added. “To seed long-term, sustainable growth, local entrepreneurs need technical assistance in developing business plans and local small business owners need help planning for the future. For many of these communities, the typical day-to-day struggles of owning a business were compounded with the arrival of Hurricane Matthew. It’s one thing to start or sustain a small business; it’s another to do it in the aftermath of a natural disaster.”

During the July board meeting, Butler informed the board about the town being considered for participation in the program, and the final word came just last week. The process by which Roseboro was selected was intensive. The Rural Center invited towns to submit letters of interest and documentation of the impact of the storm on their local communities. Each application was thoroughly reviewed by the Center’s advisory committee before the final selections were made.

The Small Business Recovery Program was made possible with a grant from the Golden LEAF Foundation under the Disaster Recovery Act of 2016.

The Small Business Recovery Program is part of the Rural Center’s larger disaster recovery efforts, which include the North Carolina Small Business Recovery Fund, an initiative to help the state’s small business community recover from the effects of Hurricane Matthew, the western wildfires, Tropical Storm Julia, and Tropical Storm Hermine.

The town of Roseboro has been selected to participate in a program through the North Carolina Rural Center that could help with revitalizing the downtown area.

Roseboro part of Rural Center program

Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.

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