Rural and Urban: Agenda

Welcome and Overview  |   9:00 A.M.

There is a common and growing perception of a divide between rural and urban communities. Where economic growth was once a shared characteristic of both locations, there has been a steady economic decline in many rural communities in the last several decades. But the story is much more nuanced—the success of rural and urban areas varies widely. What is clear is that rural and urban communities are highly interconnected—by workforce, natural assets, supply chains and other elements. Boundaries are increasingly fluid. Finding ways to more effectively promote and leverage these interconnections could lead to shared prosperity across the state.

Speakers:  • Chancellor Randy Woodson, NC State University  Read Bio • Leslie Boney, Institute for Emerging Issues Read Bio

Igniting Idea

Thriving by Design – Rural & Urban Together to create the One Minnesota Equity Blueprint | 9:30 a.m.

The One Minnesota Equity Blueprint is a rural urban socioeconomic contract that will help achieve an inclusive economy, just society, and vibrant democracy in Minnesota, with and for all Minnesotans (by measures of inclusive economy and equity, civic engagement, and closing the education achievement gap) before or by 2033, Minnesota’s 175th statehood anniversary.
Speaker:  • Jane Leonard, President, Growth and Justice, Minnesota Read Bio

RUral-Urban Divide: myth and reality | 9:40 a.m.

A rural-urban divide implies two things: 1) there is an “us” and a “them,” and 2) that we aren’t working together. New national data reveals perceptions that rural and urban communities have about one another. Statewide data illustrates the blurring of boundaries and tests assumptions about rural and urban North Carolina.  

Introduction:  • John Hood, President, John William Pope Foundation Read Bio  

  • What Unites and Divides Urban, Suburban and Rural Communities
    Speaker:  • 
    Juliana Menasce Horowitz, Associate Director of Research, Pew Research Center Read Bio
  • The Blurring of North Carolina’s Boundaries
    Speaker:  • 
    Lee Worsley, Executive Director, Triangle J Council of Governments  Read Bio
  • A Reflection on K-12 Education
    Speaker:  • Freebird McKinney, 2018-19 Burroughs Wellcome Fund NC Teacher of the Year  Read Bio

Networking Break | 10:30 A.M.


We’re More Connected than You Think | 10:55 A.M. 

It’s a global economy and we need to work together across our divisions to be competitive. Or it won’t be win-lose for urban and rural, it will be a lose-lose for the state.
• Leah Brown, Managing Partner, CORDS (Community-Centric Opioid Research and Data Services) & IEI National Advisory Board Member  Read Bio  

Introduction: • Brian Dabson, Research Fellow, School of Government, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill  Read Bio

  • The Business Case
    • Speaker:  •  Laura Lane, President, Global Public Affairs, UPS  Read Bio
  • The Public Sector Perspective 
    • Speaker:  • Dennis Alvord, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Regional Affairs, U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration  Read Bio
  • It Takes Two: Connecting Urban & Rural Healthcare
    • Speaker:  • Dana M. Weston, President & CEO, UNC Rockingham Health Read Bio


Igniting Idea

Faith at Work: Context in Conversations | 12:10 P.M. 

This presentation will highlight the Northern Piedmont District of the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church (Guilford, Rockingham, and northern Randolph Counties) and the Beloved Community Center.
Speakers:  • Rev. Maria King, Congregational Vitality Specialist, Northern Piedmont District of the Western North Carolina United Methodist Church  Read Bio • Rev. Wesley Morris, Senior Pastor, Faith Community Church, Beloved Organizing, Training and Healing Initiative (BOTHI) Director, Beloved Community Center Read Bio

The North Carolina Imperative | 12:20 P.M. 
  • Remarks: Jack Cecil, Biltmore Farms LLC & Chair, IEI National Advisory Board Read Bio
  • Introduction: Maurice Smith, CEO, Local Government Federal Credit Union Read Bio
  • Speaker: • Governor Roy Cooper Read Bio

Lunch | 12:40 P.M.

Igniting Idea

Setting the table for connection | 1:30 P.M.

Speaker:  • Anupama Joshi, Executive Director, Blue Sky Funders Forum Read Bio

MOVING TO SOLUTIONS: Innovation in Rural and Urban Cooperation | 1:40 P.M. 

Local communities and organizations—with their traditions, willingness to work, and history of coming together in the toughest of times to solve the biggest of challenges—can help reconnect our rural and urban communities. This session will showcase examples of communities that are actively working on successful efforts to address shared challenges or promote and more effectively leverage interconnections between different community types (i.e., rural, suburban, and urban). It will also highlight the inspiring stories of how five communities are building intentional connections between rural and urban North Carolina.
Introduction:  • Travis Mitchell, UNC-TV Read Bio

The Five Community Initiatives are:

  • Carolina Core
  • Growing Outdoors WNC
  • Project Empathy
  • Project 40
philanthropic community response | 2:20 P.M. 

Speakers:  • Dan Gerlach, President, Golden LEAF Foundation  Read Bio • Karl Stauber, President & CEO, Danville Regional Foundation  Read Bio • Jennifer Tolle Whiteside, President & CEO, NC Community Foundation  Read Bio


broadband: perils and possibilities | 2:45 P.M.

A dynamic discussion about the possibilities and realities of where we are with broadband in NC. 
• Senator Harry Brown, NC General Assembly  Read Bio • Jean Davis, President & CEO, MCNC  Read Bio

Networking Break | 3:05 P.M.

BREAKOUT SESSIONS: Issues that Impact Rural and Urban North Carolina | 3:25 P.M.

These sessions will address the 2-3 issues within the topics below that have significant relevance to rural-urban interconnectedness. Technological opportunity and leadership are cross-cutting themes under each issue. Every forum participant will have the opportunity to share their voice and brainstorm mutually beneficial strategies for rural and urban communities.

  • Affordable Housing: Rural-urban strategies to increase affordable housing stock
    • Tyran Hill, Business Development Officer, NC Community Development Initiative Read Bio
    • Yvette Holmes, Vice President of Resource Development and Partnership, DHIC  Read Bio
    • Senator Floyd McKissick, NC General Assembly Read Bio
    • Keith Walker, CEO & President, East Carolina Community Development Inc. Read Bio
  • Opioids and Behavioral Health: Rural-urban strategies to address opioids and behavioral health
    • Fred Wells Brason II, President & CEO, Project Lazarus  Read Bio
    • Senator Don Davis, NC General Assembly  Read Bio
    • Alan Dellapenna, Jr., Branch Head of the Injury and Violence Prevention Branch, North Carolina Division of Public Health  Read Bio
    • Maggie Sauer, Director, Office of Rural Health, NC Department of Health and Human Services  Read Bio
  • Culture and Recreation: Rural-urban strategies to promote events and open space
    • Susi Hamilton, Secretary, NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources Read Bio
    • Sig Hutchinson, Commissioner, Wake County Read Bio
    • Juvencio Rocha-Peralta, Executive Director, Association of Mexicans in North Carolina, Inc. (AMEXCAN) Read Bio
  • Transportation: Rural-urban collaboration on transportation strategies
    • Greer Beaty, Deputy Secretary for Communications, Community Outreach & Public Engagement, NC Department of Transportation Read Bio
    • Representative John Torbett, NC General Assembly  Read Bio
    • James Trogdon III, Secretary, NC Department of Transportation Read Bio
  • Workforce Development: Rural-urban collaboration to meet regional workforce needs
    • Ginger Brick, Workforce Development Director, Cape Fear Council of Governments  Read Bio
    • Stephanie Deese, Executive Director, NC Association of Workforce Development Boards Read Bio
    • Representative David Lewis, NC General Assembly Read Bio
    • Nathan Ramsey, Director, Mountain Area Workforce Development Board Read Bio
  • Economic Development: Rural-urban cooperation on economic development
    • John Chaffee, President & CEO, NCEast Alliance  Read Bio
    • Natalie English, President & CEO, Wilmington Chamber of Commerce Read Bio
    • Kenny Flowers, Assistant Secretary for Rural Economic Development, NC Department of Commerce  Read Bio
    • Representative Jason Saine, NC General Assembly Read Bio



Leaders in public policy and the media will discuss and debate what they believe it will take for rural and urban communities to work together to leverage interconnections. They will then look towards their own sectors for solutions.

  • NC Policy Leader Response
    • Speaker Tim Moore, NC House of Representatives  Read Bio
    • Senator Dan Blue, NC General Assembly  Read Bio
  • Media’s Role in Shifting the Narrative
    • Moderator: Tom Campbell, Creator, Executive Producer, and Moderator of NC SPIN  Read Bio
    • Cullen Browder, Investigative Reporter & Anchor, WRAL-TV News (Raleigh) Read Bio
    • Allen Johnson, Executive Editorial Page Editor of the News & Record and the Winston-Salem Journal Read Bio
    • Ken MacDonald, Publisher, The News-Journal (Raeford, NC) Read Bio
    • Melanie Sill, Senior News Consultant, N.C. Local News Lab Fund Read Bio


CLOSING | 5:25 P.M.

Speakers: • Leslie Boney, Institute for Emerging Issues (IEI) Read Bio • Patrick Woodie, President, NC Rural Center  Read Bio • Jeff Michael, Director, UNC Charlotte Urban Institute  Read Bio