Johnston County was well represented recently by leaders from across the County participating in the NC Rural Center’s Homegrown Leaders program. Johnston County Commissioner Butch Lawter (pictured below), Benson Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Loretta Byrd (pictured below) and Downtown Smithfield Development Corporation Executive Director Sarah Edwards (pictured above) graduated last month from the program, a three-day regional leadership and economic development program that develops and supports highly-motivated leaders who are committed to building regional collaboration across multi-county regions in the state.
For the past two years, Homegrown Leaders has served Western North Carolina. Over the next two years, however, the leadership and economic development training program will cover a 42-county region in Eastern North Carolina.
The second virtual training of the series, held February 24-26, 2021, attracted existing and emerging leaders from an eight-county region that included Cumberland, Duplin, Harnett, Johnston, Jones, Onslow, Sampson, and Wayne counties.
Homegrown Leaders typically meets in-person, but was held virtually due to the ongoing challenges of the coronavirus pandemic. “Restructuring the course curriculum for online delivery was certainly challenging, but how we ultimately convened the training underscored the critical importance of innovation in leadership development and regional collaboration,” said Rural Center Senior Director of Leadership and Engagement, Bronwyn Lucas.
Certificates were presented to the program's 40 graduates upon completion of the training.
“Leadership development is at the core of the Rural Center’s work, and now more than ever it is important that our leaders are equipped with the skills and tools to foster growth and innovation,” said Rural Center President Patrick Woodie. “We’re excited to see the impact our Homegrown Leaders graduates will have in their communities and regions, especially as we try to move through and recover from the coronavirus pandemic.”
Class participants included economic development professionals, educators, and civic and nonprofit leaders.
“Homegrown Leaders creates a space for rural leaders to train alongside their peers from across their region, building and strengthening partnerships that reach across county lines and work toward a common vision of a thriving rural North Carolina,” said Lucas. “We are thrilled these talented graduates will now be joining the Rural Center’s leadership alumni network of more than 1,300 rural leaders across the state.”
The Homegrown Leaders trainings in Eastern North Carolina are funded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration, the Anonymous Trust, the North Carolina Community Foundation, Smithfield Foods, the North Carolina Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service, and First National Bank. For more information about Homegrown Leaders, visit the Rural Center’s website ncruralcenter.org/leadership/
About the NC Rural Center
For 30 years, the NC Rural Center has worked to develop, promote, and implement sound economic strategies to improve the quality of life of rural North Carolinians. The Rural Center serves the state's 80 rural counties, with a special focus on individuals with low-to-moderate incomes and communities with limited resources.