The population of Shallotte, N.C., has grown by more than 150 percent in the last decade, but most people consider it little more than a “convenience stop” on their way to the beach.
Thanks to a visionary local government, creative UNC graduate students, an innovative School of Government program and generous funding from Local Government Federal Credit Union (LGFCU), this once-sleepy fishing village is creating a new town center that will occupy 20 acres along the beautiful and winding Shallotte River that will include shopping, dining, entertainment, business and residential space.
The School of Government received a $7.1 million gift from LGFCU that will boost economic development throughout the state through the Development Finance Initiative (DFI) as well as build North Carolina local government leadership capacity with the LGFCU Fellows program. Previous funding from LGFCU enabled the school to initiate these programs. The gift of $7.1 million will ensure that North Carolina local governments will continue to benefit in the future.
DFI provides economically distressed communities with specialized finance and development expertise for development projects. During a UNC graduate course in community revitalization, students helped Shallotte officials think through their vision to create a town center. DFI helped the town find the most effective and efficient way to finance this transformative project and has helped to recruit qualified private development partners to implement the project in concert with the town government and residents.
“This is a once-in-a-multi-generational opportunity to fundamentally change the character of a town,” said Shallotte Mayor Walt Eccard. “It allows us to honor our history and prepare for the future. The Riverfront Project will bring jobs to the area and will make it easier to see Shallotte as a destination rather than a pass-through to the beach.”
DFI employs UNC graduates as project managers to work with communities across the state. And the project managers serve as coaches for current UNC graduate students. DFI is working with local governments on both large-scale projects such as the one in Shallotte and the redevelopment of an aging public parking facility in downtown Wilmington as well as on smaller projects in low-resource communities, including Spindale, East Spencer and Halifax.
“This is a once-in-a-multi- generational opportunity to fundamentally change the character of a town.”-Walt Eccard
Many local communities in North Carolina need help with economic development but equally pressing are growing leadership needs as local government managers are retiring in record numbers and local challenges—including population growth, aging infrastructure and the economic aftermath of the Great Recession—are increasing.
The School of Government’s LGFCU Fellows Program addresses that reality by providing intensive training to local officials on a leadership track. Each year since its inception in 2011, at least 50 local officials have graduated from the multi-week course and returned to their jurisdictions with improved management skills, stronger professional networks and increased confidence to assume leadership roles.
Loryn Clark, executive director of housing and community for the Town of Chapel Hill, was interim assistant planning director when she attended the fellows program in 2013. “It renewed my commitment to public service and being a steward of public funds and public trust,” she said. “Being selected from a pool of qualified applicants felt as though we were selected to make a difference in our community. I took that very seriously; I think we all did.”
Because of the gift from LGFCU, public officials from even the smallest North Carolina jurisdictions are able to access leadership training, which is offered tuition free. With secure funding, the fellows program will continue building strategic leadership capacity around the state.
The LGFCU gift demonstrates a commitment to succession planning and the long-term economic success of the state.