The Golden LEAF Board of Directors on June 3 awarded $2.4 million in funding to support projects through the Open Grants Program, Community-Based Grant Initiative and Disaster Recovery Grant Program.

The announcement included a CBGI grant to Watauga County to support a building and infrastructure for a livestock processing center in Watauga and surrounding counties.

In addition, the board awarded $1.75 million to N.C. Community College System to provide scholarships for community college students and $1.5 million to the Center for Creative Leadership to implement the leadership training component of the Golden LEAF Scholarship Program. Golden LEAF also heard an update from N.C. Secretary of Commerce Machelle Baker Sanders.

“We would like to thank Secretary Sanders for taking time to speak with the Board today,” said Golden LEAF Board Chair Bo Biggs. “We are grateful to have such a strong partnership with the Department of Commerce and look forward to working with Secretary Sanders to increase economic opportunity in rural, economically distressed, and tobacco-dependent North Carolina.”

In February, the Golden LEAF Board adopted a long-term strategic plan that reaffirmed the mission of Golden LEAF prioritizing job creation, economic investment, workforce preparedness, and agriculture. In addition, the plan identified new strategies and best practices in rural economic development.

On June 3, the board approved updating the Open Grants Program to implement the strategic plan, including establishing criteria for projects to be awarded up to $500,000, an increase in the amount previously available under the program. The Board also reviewed staff recommendations for establishing a new site development and infrastructure program as well as for enhancements to the Golden LEAF Scholarship Program.

Golden LEAF will be updating its website and providing further information on these new and modified programs in the coming weeks.

“We are excited to begin implementation of our newly adopted strategic plan,” said Golden LEAF President, Chief Executive Officer Scott T. Hamilton. “Our board and staff are working hard to provide opportunities to bolster the long-term economic advancement of our state. We will be rolling out information about these programs on our website and through our email newsletter over the next few weeks.”

Under the Open Grants Program, the Golden LEAF Board of Directors awarded $282,064.80 for two projects that will support job creation, economic investment and workforce preparedness.

Through the Community-Based Grants Initiative, the Golden LEAF Board of Directors awarded $1 million to Watauga County to support a building and infrastructure for a livestock processing center that will serve an estimated 500 producers primarily in Ashe, Alleghany, Avery, Caldwell, Mitchell and Watauga counties.

In Columbus County, the Golden LEAF Board of Directors awarded $200,000 to the Town of Fair Bluff to connect a new water supply well to the town’s water system, providing necessary service for Pipeline Plastics. Pipeline Plastics expects to create up to 60 jobs paying above the county average wage.

In McDowell County, the Golden LEAF Board of Directors awarded $82,064.80 to Freedom Life Ministries, a nonprofit organization serving justice involved individuals, to provide work-based training opportunities that lead to a credential. Local manufacturers have expressed interest in hiring candidates who possess these credentials to save on training time and costs.

Golden LEAF’s Community-Based Grants Initiative is a competitive initiative that focuses on one prosperity zone each year and is designed to identify projects that are ready for implementation and have the potential to have a significant impact. Awards for other projects in the Northwest Prosperity Zone were made at the April meeting of the Golden LEAF Board.

The North Carolina Community College System was awarded $1.75 million by the Golden LEAF Board to support scholarships for rural students from tobacco-dependent or economically distressed counties to attend participating North Carolina community colleges. Curriculum students can receive up to $2,250 per year, and continuing education students can receive up to $1,850 per year.

The Golden LEAF Board of Directors awarded $1.5 million to the Center for Creative Leadership to provide leadership development as part of the Golden LEAF Scholarship Program. More than 300 Golden LEAF scholarship recipients are provided leadership development training, coaching, and a paid summer work experience in a rural county. Today, the Golden LEAF Board revised the program to provide a new online approach to the program for freshman participants. Current participants will continue in the prior program design. More information will be provided on the Golden LEAF website in the coming months.

The Board also approved $1.1 million in additional Disaster Recovery Grant Program funding to existing projects in Beaufort, Columbus, Johnston, and Pamlico counties. The Disaster Recovery Grant Program is funded through appropriations by the State of North Carolina to the Golden LEAF Foundation to award funds to governmental entities and 501©(3) nonprofits to repair or replace infrastructure and equipment damaged or destroyed by Hurricanes Matthew, Florence, Michael, and Dorian. Click here for a spreadsheet of the Disaster Recovery Grant Program awards.

Over two decades, Golden LEAF has funded 1,937 projects totaling $1.1 billion.

About Golden LEAF

The Golden LEAF Foundation is a nonprofit organization established in 1999 to receive a portion of North Carolina’s funding from the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement with cigarette manufacturers. For 20 years, Golden LEAF has worked to increase economic opportunity in North Carolina’s rural and tobacco-dependent communities through leadership in grantmaking, collaboration, innovation, and stewardship as an independent and perpetual foundation.

The Foundation has provided lasting impact to tobacco-dependent, economically distressed and rural areas of the state by helping create 65,000 jobs, over half a billion dollars in new payrolls and more than 85,000 workers trained or retrained for higher wages.

For more information about Golden LEAF and our programs, please visit our website at

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