Finally, we have some actual journalism in North Carolina. I was beginning to think that investigative reporting was a lost art, but lo and behold, the local rags published a damning article on a prominent nonprofit organization. And it couldn’t have come at a better time. The General Assembly is crafting the state’s budget and is looking to cut programs that are undeserving. And I can’t think of a more deserving organization to get the axe, than the NC Rural Economic Development Center.
Governor McCrory has already slashed this nonprofits annual appropriation from $16 million to $6 million. As far as I’m concerned, after reading this article, they deserve nothing. This organization has been subsidizing corporations that can afford their own projects. Here is an excerpt from the Charlotte Observer:
The N.C. Rural Economic Development Center portrays itself as working to heal North Carolina’s struggling rural counties. Its brochures and website feature tractors, farm animals and brick buildings lining small-town streets. Leaders highlight work on the “long-range future” of rural counties.
But the private nonprofit organization also has used millions in taxpayer money to help build fast-food restaurants, golf resorts, discount stores and big-box retail outlets that include a Kohl’s in Southern Pines and a dozen Walmarts, records and interviews show.
It spent $85,000 to help an electronic sweepstakes software company outfit a building in Greenville after lawmakers tried to shut the sweepstakes industry down.
It granted $350,000 for water wells in La Grange, about an hour southeast of Raleigh, saying the infrastructure would generate 35 full-time jobs at a new restaurant. The restaurant was a Bojangles’ that had already hired workers and opened its doors the next week; the wells were drilled six years later to solve a major water-capacity problem in the town.
Nonprofits like the N.C. Rural Development Center have no governmental oversight. They spread the money around without taxpayers’ knowledge or consent, usually in the form of grants to local governments. They in turn wave this “free money” around hoping to land a chain store, restaurant, or political entrepreneurs who know how to game the system. One city official called these grants “gravy money” not essential to business plans.
I say it’s time to stop the gravy train. It’s time to put an end to the N.C. Rural Development Center.