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Partners in Progress Awarded Grant for Entrepreneurship Hub Project

Senator Thom Tillis’ office announced that Moore County Partners in Progress has been awarded an $80,000 grant from the Economic Development Administration for Partners in Progress’ project to evaluate the opportunity to establish an entrepreneurship hub in northern Moore County.

The grant awarded to Partners in Progress (PIP), the nonprofit economic development organization serving all of Moore County, is through the Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) 2019 Disaster Supplemental Economic Adjustment Assistance program.  The grant provides up to 80% of the $100,000 total cost for PIP’s project called “Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Assessment & Entrepreneurial Incubator Hub Feasibility Study to Support Disaster Recovery, Economic Resiliency, and Diversification”.  The project will complete a countywide assessment of Moore County’s entrepreneurial ecosystem to identify its scope, characteristics, capacity, assets/strengths and gaps/weaknesses, and then using that data, will complete a feasibility study to determine the viability of establishing an entrepreneurship incubator facility in northern Moore County, the geographic area of Carthage north to Robbins.  The County of Moore is the co-applicant for the grant and has agreed to provide the remaining 20%, or up to $20,000, of the project cost.

The EDA’s Disaster Supplemental grant program is designed to provide economic development assistance to support long-term community economic recovery planning and project implementation, redevelopment and resiliency in communities impacted by a Presidentially-declared major disaster.  Moore County became eligible for this grant program when it was federally-declared a disaster area due to Hurricane Florence that hit the county in September 2018.  Moore County was also hit by Hurricane Michael a month later in October 2018.

Like many other counties that were in the path of these hurricanes, Moore County suffered from extensive power outages, flooding, and considerable wind damage.  Hurricane Florence unloaded at least 16.5 inches of rain on Moore County, washing out multiple roads, stressing municipal water & sewer systems beyond capacity, damaging both residential and commercial properties, and disrupting businesses.

PIP’s goal of ultimately establishing an entrepreneurship hub is to mitigate the lingering adverse economic impacts of Hurricanes Florence and Michael in Moore County, but particularly in northern Moore that was more detrimentally affected.  A hub would stimulate general economic recovery, resiliency, and diversification in these communities by assisting new start-ups and existing small businesses, and fostering entrepreneurial development to create new jobs and generate capital investment.

Another reason for targeting Carthage or Robbins as a potential location for the hub, explained Pat Corso, Executive Director of PIP, is that “we can all see there is significant economic disparity and a clear rural/urban divide between the more rural, economically-disadvantaged northern half of the County and the more urban, prosperous southern end.  Northern Moore especially needs opportunities that foster long-term economic development.”

Corso added that a desired outcome of the project would be to not only attract entrepreneurs located in Robbins and Carthage, but also to recruit talent from southern Moore County to the hub.  The hub could be the beneficiary of the military personnel and spouses leaving Ft. Bragg who opt to live in Moore County and begin new businesses.  “This trend has been more prevalent in the last few years with the substantial in-migration of military families, particularly Special Operations,” he said.  A key objective will be to identify and encourage these veteran entrepreneurs to utilize the services of the hub.

“But to reach that point,” he said, “we first have to take an inventory of the existing entrepreneurial environment and then see if the feasibility study confirms that a hub is likely to be successful here.  The EDA grant will enable us to find out.”

Other partners in this project, in addition to the County of Moore and the Towns of Carthage and Robbins, include UNC at Pembroke, Sandhills Community College, and NC’s Southeast Partnership.

The next step is for PIP to distribute a Request for Proposals (RFP) to private and non-profit consulting firms who have the expertise and capacity to complete the ecosystem assessment and feasibility study.  Once a firm is chosen, it will likely take 6 to 8 months for the work to be completed.

“At this point, we don’t know how the coronavirus pandemic will impact the overall timeline for this project,” Corso said.  “We do anticipate that the its completion will take longer than it would under normal circumstances, but fortunately, the EDA has indicated that they are willing to be more flexible and possibly extend the grant’s 1-year term if needed.”

“We greatly appreciate this grant award from the EDA and all of the guidance and assistance they have provided.  Our EDA contact, Hillary Sherman, is so helpful.  We look forward to working with them and all of our partners in moving forward with this project.”

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