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Wednesday, 16 September 2020 14:18

NC Rural Center forms task force to support small businesses

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RALEIGH — With the support of a grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the NC Rural Center has launched a Small Business Policy Task Force, led by a group of entrepreneurs, small-business advocates, and policymakers all dedicated to empowering North Carolina's entrepreneurial ecosystem through direct policy engagement and action.


Transylvania County Commission Chair Mike Hawkins and Vicki Lee Parker-High, executive director of the North Carolina Business Council, are the co-chairs of the task force, which held its inaugural meeting last month. 

"We are thrilled at the level of engagement from our esteemed cadre of task force members," said Co-Chair Parker-High. "We have some of the brightest minds, and committed small business advocates at the table. Together, we will lead the charge to advance a collective agenda with our state's entrepreneurs and small-business owners."

"As a small business owner, I know all too well the struggles that one faces, and the commitment it takes to sustain overtime," said Co-Chair Hawkins. "It is economically imperative that we develop North Carolina based solutions to support our small businesses." 

As a part of the grant, the Rural Center and its lending subsidiary, Thread Capital, have signed on to the Kauffman Foundation's Start Us Up coalition and their national America's New Business Plan to elevate the importance of entrepreneurship. The initiative provides policymakers at the local, state, and federal level a bipartisan road map for reducing barriers to entrepreneurship and spurring more startups across the country to create new jobs. 

America's New Business Plan outlines four policy focus areas to better support entrepreneurs, especially women, people of color, and rural residents.

The four pillars of America's New Business Plan are:

  • Opportunity: a level playing field and less red tape;
  • Funding: equal access to the right kind of capital everywhere;
  • Knowledge: the know-how to start a business;
  • Support: the ability for all to take risks.

"This work comes at a crucial moment in time for our state," said Rural Center Director of Advocacy Brandy Bynum Dawson. "As we contend with the short- and long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on our economy, it is crucial that the voices of small-business owners are heard and that we promote fiscally sound public policy with their needs in mind."

 Over the next six months, the Task Force will adapt America's New Business Plan to North Carolina's specific context and needs, resulting in a consensus-based policy agenda that leverages the state's existing assets and small-business infrastructure. 

"Our task force is made up of passionate and knowledgeable advocates, all of whom come from diverse professional backgrounds, race and ethnicities, genders, ages, and geographic regions of the state," said Bynum Dawson. 

The task force aims to build an equitable entrepreneurial ecosystem all across the state where entrepreneurs of color, women small-business owners, veterans, differently abled, and young small-business owners, have the tools and resources to succeed. "Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, there were historical inequities and gaps in our small-business development infrastructure that left many entrepreneurs under-resourced and undercapitalized," said Bynum Dawson. "Overtime, through this work, we aim to close these gaps, creating a more vibrant, equitable, and resilient economy in the process." 

Members of the Task Force include:

  • Vicki Lee Parker-High (co-chair)
  • Mike Hawkins (co-chair)
  • Ja'Net Adams, EMACK Consulting, owner
  • Jose D. Alvarez, Prospera, Vice President-North Carolina
  • David Bennet, EJ Victor, COO
  • Representative James Gailliard, North Carolina General Assembly, District 25
  • Gene McLaurin, Swink Quality Oil Company, President
  • Don Flow, Flow Automotive Companies, Chairman and CEO
  • Terry Johnson, SpokeHub, VP of Digital Content
  • Ben Knight, Artist and Restaurant Co-Owner
  • Dee McDougal, Pacific Western Bank, SVP of Diversity and Inclusion
  • Kevin Price, The Institute, President and CEO
  • Marquita Robertson, The Collaborative, Executive Director
  • Representative Stephen Ross, North Carolina General Assembly, District 63
  • Thom Rhue, NC IDEA, President and CEO
  • Gregg Thompson, National Federation of Independent Business, State Director
  • Dennis Tracz, East Carolina University, Accelerate Rural NC, Director
  • Alicia Wills, Nature's Manna, Co-Owner

 "We've heard our small-business owners and communities, loud and clear that now is the time for state-based policy solutions to move the needle on this very important issue," said NC Rural Center President Patrick Woodie. "This is an issue that impacts both rural and urban small-business owners, thus requiring statewide solutions that address the issue today and into the future."

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