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Brevard, NC + Sustainable Approaches = Jobs and a Cleaner Environment

2011 November 22

By Matthew Dalbey

On November 17, I traveled with Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe and USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan to Brevard, North Carolina, a town of fewer than 7,000 people in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The deputies held a roundtable discussion with local officials, community organizations and businesses under the auspices of the White House Rural Council, and released a report, Supporting Sustainable Rural Communities , by the HUD-DOT-EPA Partnership for Sustainable Communities and USDA.

Brevard and the surrounding region exemplify how rural towns can use sustainable approaches to create jobs and protect the environment. These approaches include economic development strategies and land use policies that support agriculture, foster thriving main streets, and build on competitive advantages to improve quality of life.

The deputies toured a former paper mill and Superfund site that has been cleaned up and is now ready for redevelopment. The mill was once the largest employer in Transylvania County, so its closure in 2002 was an economic blow. Thanks to an innovative partnership between the developers, EPA, the state of North Carolina, and other stakeholders, the site is being redeveloped with homes, stores, and accommodations for visitors to the Pisgah National Forest. The development is connected to downtown Brevard and the national forest by a bicycle and hiking trail. And it will create over 2,800 permanent jobs.

Deputy Perciasepe called the Partnership report a “physical manifestation” of the four agencies’ commitment to helping public investments work better for rural America and creating good conditions for private investment. The report outlines how rural communities can use programs from the four agencies to get better results for their economies, environment, communities, and public health. Deputy Merrigan noted the Partnership’s efforts to support main streets in small towns, which are critical to the future of rural America.

Having worked on the Partnership since it began in 2009, and particularly on rural issues, I found this trip particularly gratifying. I also enjoyed the opportunity to discuss the rural work we do with the chief operating officers of two agencies with huge footprints in rural America. It was a terrific experience to be in Brevard to hear how leaders in this region are using sustainable approaches to create great places to live—and to show other communities across the country that these strategies can improve quality of life in rural America, even in these challenging economic times.

About the author: Matthew Dalbey is director of the Federal and State Division in the Office of Sustainable Communities.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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3 Responses leave one →
  1. armansyahardanis permalink
    November 22, 2011

    Back To Rural : I Am Regret !

    I was born in urban city 56 years ago. I often see, read the news and watch the TV, the rural move spread to be an urban community on worldwide. However, in fact, they are the mainstream of strengthen of planet endurance. I am regret not to be born there, but after read this post be treated. Good idea…..

  2. Kiyahisa Tanada permalink
    November 23, 2011

    Will not the mechanization of the agriculture evolve more?
    Aging of the agriculture working population gradually advances.
    There is the issue of employment of the veteran, too.
    I think so that reduction of the work force cost advances by evolution of the mechanization.

  3. Brooke L. permalink
    November 27, 2011

    I would be interested to see exactly what the EPA is doing to reach out not only to this community, but others as well. Part of the larger problem is that smaller, rural communities are unaware of the resources the federal government can provide them to enhance their economic development. Another issue I would be interested in hearing about are the potential conflicts with EPA and local regulations. Sometimes local regulations are developed that unintentionally conflict with older EPA regulations. The result can sometimes be very costly to local communities, so I would be interested to see what the EPA is doing to solve those problems. It might be a good idea for EPA officials conducting these roundtables to be sure to discuss this issue with rural communities.

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