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Bank Convenes Rural Leaders to Explore Collaboration

Attendees working together at the Rural Intermediary Leadership Retreat

The Richmond Fed brought together leaders from five states last month whose work centers on helping rural areas and small towns thrive.

The two-day Rural Intermediary Leadership Retreat took place at the Bank’s Charlotte, North Carolina, branch, and participants engaged in strategic discussions about the needs and challenges facing rural communities as well as their opportunities.

The following organizations provided the Richmond Fed with insight and information for the retreat: the Maryland Rural Council, Garrett County Community Action Committee, Center for Rural Virginia, United Way of Southwest Virginia, The West Virginia Hub, NC Rural Center and the South Carolina Department of Commerce.

“This meeting gave the participating regional and state leaders, and the Richmond Fed’s Community Development staff, an opportunity to engage in peer learning and to collaborate on a signature initiative that can improve economic opportunities for small towns and rural areas across the Fifth District,” said Jason Smith, the Bank’s senior community development advisor and lead organizer of the retreat.

The retreat was the first of a series of quarterly meetings that will be held over the next two years, with a goal of:

  • Defining a common goal that the group will work toward accomplishing
  • Developing a concrete plan of action
  • Determining how best to track and measure results
  • Sharing best practices that can be replicated in other rural areas

The group agreed that key areas of focus will include helping rural communities access post-pandemic funds and use them to address strategic needs; developing innovations in community financing and leadership; and creating a common set of community indicators, tools and success stories.

While several of the nation’s Reserve Banks have convened retreats or workshops for partnering with local, state and regional leaders, this event was the Richmond Fed’s first opportunity to bring together rural stakeholders for this purpose, Smith said.

“Part of our mission is to ensure that all of the communities across the Fifth District are economically sustainable and convening these leaders to bring their strengths and resources to the table for each other’s benefits is an important way of doing that,” Smith said.

Retreat participants noted the importance of the Federal Reserve bringing them together to develop a multistate network.

“It was helpful to be in the same space and to have the opportunity to learn from each other,” said Travis Stanton, CEO of the United Way of Southwest Virginia.

Next steps at the end of the retreat included a recommendation that the state and regional leaders who helped organize the event form a steering committee that advises the Richmond Fed as the group’s joint project is being determined, refined and developed.

“These are exciting times, and we look forward to seeing how our joint efforts result in joint successes,” said Erika Bell, Richmond Fed community development manager for North Carolina and South Carolina.

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