GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – Three towns from the Triad are among 19 rural communities selected for a state economic program designed to help them grow their economies.

Two of the towns are in Randolph County – Liberty and part of Archdale – and they are joined by Pilot Mountain in Surry County in the first class of what is called the Rural Community Capacity program.

Liberty is just east of the Greensboro Randolph Megasite, where Toyota is building.

This program is designed to provide the towns with educational and technical assistance and focused guidance to staff members from towns that a release from the NC Department of Commerce called “rural and distressed communities.”

The program is in conjunction with the College of Business at Appalachian State University, and the first group gathered today in Boone.

“As we build on North Carolina’s economic development success, we must make sure that success is shared among both urban and rural communities across our state,” Gov. Roy Cooper said in a release announcing the program. “This program will strengthen the ability of local governments in rural communities to secure major economic projects and bolster North Carolina’s economy.”

Drone shot of a water tower bearing the name of Liberty in Randolph County. (GETTY IMAGES)

The other rural communities included are Bertie County. Hertford County, Martin County, the town of Carthage, the town of China Grove, the town of East Spencer, the town of Garysburg, the town of Hildebran, the town of Jonesville, the town of Mars Hill, the town of Marshville, the town of Maysville, the town of Rosman, the town of Spruce Pine, the town of Vass and the town of Wilson Mills.

Liberty, a town of about 2,664, would figure to have a leg up because it is very near the Greensboro Randolph County Megasite, where dirt is being moved for the electric vehicle battery plant Toyota is building there.

Archdale city leaders move forward with plan for the future after pandemic stalled efforts
Archdale is a town between High Point and Thomasville. (WGHP)

Toyota is investing $1.272 billion in the facility, and the state has ponied up $271.4 million in incentives to lure the facility, which by December 2026 is scheduled to employ 1,750 at a median salary of $62,234. That investment and employment are expected to double in the ensuing decade.

But that project may not have a significant impact in Archdale, a town of about 11,600 about a half-hour due west that sits astride the Randolph-Guilford County line. Archdale is more aligned with the economies of nearby High Point and Thomasville. Its population has been rising, and its poverty rate is about 10%.

And Pilot Mountain, which is at the foot of the iconic landmark between Winston-Salem and Mount Airy, is a town of about 1,400 whose population has been declining. It also has a high poverty rate (22.01%).

View of the town of Pilot Mountain, North Carolina from Pilot Mountain Knob on a winter sunrise. (GETTY IMAGES)

The release said that each of the 19 jurisdictions can identify up to two representatives to participate in the program, which will include both on-campus and virtual classes, community activities and targeted training. There are four on-campus courses that are required.

Communities that complete the campus curriculum and participate in the Commerce rural planning process will then be eligible to apply for Community Implementation Grants offered by Commerce’s Rural Economic Development Division through the new Rural Transformation Grant Fund, the release said.

“This new program, part of Commerce’s efforts to transform rural economies, will equip local governments and their staffs with the education, technical assistance, and implementation grants they need to succeed,” North Carolina Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders said in the release.