3-1-2023 – Marshall spearheads rural initiative with small businesses

Posted on: March 1st, 2023 by admin No Comments


March 1 2023




Feb 28, 2023


MORGANTON – North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine F. Marshall was joined by small business owners, economic developers, small business advocates and others from Burke and Caldwell counties for a Business Roundtable at the Foothills Higher Education Center on Tuesday morning.


Marshall discussed the new Rural RISE NC Initiative, which puts crucial resources in the hands of business creators early on. Rural RISE NC connects small business owners and advocates with mentors, business counselors, resources, and more within the community and beyond.


She also detailed new business creation data for the area and discussed recent survey analysis of new business creators.


Marshall’s office started the Rural RISE NC initiative nearly a year ago. RISE stands for Resources for Innovators, Start-ups, and Entrepreneurs.


“We started this with 14 pilot counties,” Marshall said. “Burke and Caldwell were both in our pilot initiative. Now, we are up to 26 counties in what we’re doing.”


Each unique county requires specific resources to help its citizens, so Marshall’s office has created a website, sosnc.gov/RISE, to provide additional information.


“We have data that shows that we have a pretty short window of time to get entrepreneurs in touch with the resources that are available to them. But we also found out through our research that there’s a significant gap in learning about them,” said Marshall. “Our data [shows] that in the past two years, North Carolina has been totally on fire with new businesses. During 2021 and 2022, my office has been creating between 650 and 700 new business entities every business day. I’m talking about corporations, LLCs, and nonprofits … The great majority is LLCs.”


In 2022, Burke County became home to 536 new businesses, a number that has more than doubled in the last three years.


Caldwell County became home to 497 new businesses in 2022, compared to 183 new businesses in 2019.


“The Secretary of State’s mission is to facilitate business activities in a multitude of ways. One of them is to support entrepreneurs in the creation of new business,” Marshall said. “The Secretary of State’s office is the front door for new businesses entering North Carolina’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Our entrepreneurial spirit is why the state’s economy has been ranked as the No. 1 in the country. But we have so much more work to do.”


Marshall herself is a former small business owner and can appreciate the ups and downs that small businesses face every day. She grew up in a rural county in Maryland.


“I know what it’s like to feel like a second-class citizen,” she said. “We cannot continue to have the same rural divide in this state.”


Marshall’s office issued a survey for businesses created in 2020 in order to better serve local and small businesses with getting started and staying in operation.


“As far as I know, we are the only state that is trying to figure out what, where, when, how, and what comes next,” she said. “We can get a lot of information from the data, but we can also drive policy decisions for here in North Carolina.”


The survey asked new business owners questions such as, “Where did you initially get your information to start? What do you wish you had known when you first started your business? What kind of obstacles did you experience?”


“Inadequate funding was number one,” Marshall said. “Government regulation was next, and insufficient know-how, were the three top obstacles … For rural areas, inadequate broadband was significant. It was reported as an obstacle three times the rate of urban business creators.”


Additionally, survey participants said they wanted more access to opportunities for funding, assistance in back office functions like accounting, and more information on how and where to start the process of opening a new business.


“Our Rural RISE project answers those questions,” said Marshall. “State and federal governments, as well as the non-profit community, have been offering help for years. But there is an incredibly significant gap, a deficit, in the knowledge that these resources exist. Our survey showed that the Secretary of State’s office is in a unique position; we serve as the primary communications channel to these new businesses.”


A number of small business owners from Caldwell County joined Marshall’s discussion.


Jennifer Indicott is the owner of Fercott Fermentables, the craft, beer and wine shop that has operated in downtown Lenoir for the last five years. She said she grew up in this area and moved back after a period away when she saw that the city of Lenoir was making strides to revitalize downtown.


Stefanie Keller is the owner of Wolf Moon Salt Cave and Stress Reduction Center in downtown Lenoir. She said her Salt Cave and Stress Reduction Center constantly brings in clients from Raleigh, Cary, Charlotte, and beyond, which brings tourism to downtown, as well.


Angela Postigo is the co-owner of Happy Valley Filling Station and 3rd Eye Blinds. She and her fiance, Jesse Plaster, have made incredible progress in helping with the revitalization of downtown Lenoir.


Chris and Breanna McKay are the owners of a brand new food truck, Cowlick Moos & Chews, which will soon serve gourmet Smashburger sliders and homemade cookies.


Deborah Murray, formally the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission (EDC), has recently founded a consulting company called Carpe DM. She said it’s been her privilege to work with hundreds of companies and help them start businesses.


Rhonda Walker is a realtor with Walker Real Estate Services in downtown Lenoir. She’s been in the real estate businesses for nearly 23 years and has owned her own operation for about nine years.


Other Caldwell County community leaders who were in attendance on Tuesday were Wayne Rash, Caldwell County Register of Deeds; Carmela Tomlinson, director of the Small Business Center; Bryan Moore, president and CEO of the Caldwell Chamber of Commerce; and Ashley Bolick, executive director of the Caldwell County EDC.


“No one wins when a business fails,” Marshall said in conclusion. “We’re working diligently to deliver these critical resources to new businesses as part of this project. We will finish up with every county, rural and urban, to have the same access to information. After all, our mission is to help these businesses be as successful as possible and help the ones that came before them.”


For more information about Rural RISE NC, visit sosnc.gov/RISE.


Foothills Higher Education Center is located at 2128 South Sterling Street, Morganton.

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