Dear Small Business Advocate,

This holiday season there is much to be grateful for, particularly you, our state's small business owners, advocates, and resource providers. In part to your diligent work, for the first time in three years, North Carolina has its first comprehensive state budget, following the General Assembly's passage and the Governor's signature on November 18th.

While the budget didn't fully address all of the policy recommendations outlined in our Rural Counts priorities or North Carolina's New Small Business Plan, it did include unprecedented levels of funding for small business, broadband, healthcare, and water/wastewater infrastructure which will assuredly have direct and long-lasting impacts on the quality of life of North Carolinians across the state (read more in our Legislative Update below).


Shop Local This Holiday Season!


At the Rural Center, we are also grateful for our state's small business owners and entrepreneurs this holiday season. Much like last year, 2021 has brought new challenges to our state's entrepreneurial ecosystem. In addition to prolonged COVID-19 concerns, small business owners have continued to persevere and innovate through workforce shortages, disrupted supply chains, and more. We are continually impressed by your steadfastness. 

With the Secretary of State's office reporting record numbers of business creations in 2021, there are more opportunities than ever to support your local artisans, chefs, brewers, retails vendors, and other businesses that breathe life into our communities. A 2012 study found that 68% of every dollar spent at a local business stays in the community, versus 43% when spent at a national chain. That is why this holiday season, we call on you to #ShopLocal, #SupportSmallBusiness, and make #RuralCounts.

We encourage you to read our full 'Shopping local: the gift that keep giving' Op-ed, featuring three members of the NC Small Business Coalition, and share it on your social media channels to spread the word!

As always, thank you for your continued support, and we wish you health and happiness in this season!


The Rural Counts Team 

Legislative Update


After months of anticipation, the North Carolina 2021-2023 FYS Conference Budget has been signed into law. The final version allocates $25.9 billion this fiscal year followed by $27 billion in 2022-2023 and includes a handful of compromises resulting from weeks of negotiations between the General Assembly and Governor Cooper. While a final deal did not emerge from these discussions, Governor Cooper signed the budget package recognizing the critical investments made while noting his disappointments and missed opportunities.

Despite our disappointment that the final Conference Budget failed to include Medicaid Expansion, the NC Rural Center sees opportunity in the unprecedented investments for rural North Carolina and small business, including:

  • $120.5 million in a second round of funding for the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI) administered by the NC Rural Center.
  • $5 million Capacity Building grant program for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) administered by the NC Rural Center

Click the link below to read our full end of session small business legislative recap.

Click below for a full breakdown of this session's small business funding lines and legislation related to the NC Rural Center’s North Carolina's New Small Business Plan. We also encourage you to read our recent Press Release, "NC Rural Center commends State Budget; thanks Legislators and Governor for rural wins and highlights continued, critical needs for the future," here


Join the NC Small Buiness Advisory Council


The NC Rural Center seeks 7-11 qualified and passionate small business advocates, entrepreneurs, and subject matter professionals to join the NC Small Business Advisory Council. The Small Business Advisory Council will carry on the work of the Center's Small Business Policy Task Force and Advisor group, in advancing the advocacy and policy needs of both new and existing small business owners across the state.

As this work continues, we recognize the need to coalesce our efforts, and create a more streamlined structure for our small business advocacy initiative. The NC Small Business Advisory Council will be tasked with further supporting, guiding, and informing the work of the Center's small business policy agenda and statewide Coalition. Click the link below to read more and apply!

Application Deadline: Friday, December 3rd, 2021 at midnight.


Resources & Opportunities


2022 Open Enrollment Has Begun!

Due to investments in the American Rescue Plan, millions more people qualify for low-cost, quality plans. With financial help, 4 out of 5 customers can get a plan for under $10 a month. With the marketplace now open we are encouraging small business owners and employees to enroll in 2022 coverage by visiting to see if you qualify for financial help and to sign up for coverage.
Open enrollment ends January 15, 2022. Apply before December 15, 2021 for coverage that starts January 1, 2022.

Learn more


SBA Update:

If your PPP loan is $150,000 or less, you may be eligible to apply for direct forgiveness through SBA using this online portal. Follow the steps below.

  1. Find out if your lender is participating. 
  2. Watch a video about how to use the portal.
  3. Apply for forgiveness.

COVID EIDL Program Updates

On September 9, 2021, the SBA also announced major enhancements to the COVID Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program. The updates include: an increased loan cap, deferred payment period, expansion of eligible uses, and a simplification of application requirements. 

Learn about eligibility and application requirements and how to apply. The last day that applications may be received is December 31, 2021. All eligible applicants should file their applications as soon as possible.


NC Lawyers for Entrepreneurs

NC LEAP (Lawyers for Entrepreneurs Assistance Program) coordinates attorney volunteers to provide pro bono business law advice and counsel to small business owners through webinars and clinics held in partnership with non-profit organizations throughout the state that advise small business owners. NC LEAP has three upcoming webinars scheduled. These programs are free, one hour in length and have an opportunity to ask questions at the end.

Patent Process and Basics for Entrepreneurs:

Nonprofit Formation: Shawn Garrett, The Costner Group

Business Basics—Dual  Program in English and Spanish

Visit NC LEAP's website for more info and to view previous workshop recordings.


SOAR Disburses Over $11 Million in Loans to Help South's Smallest Businesses Recover; Nearly Half to Black-Owned Businesses

The Southern Opportunity And Resilience (SOAR) Fund provides flexible, affordable capital and free business support services to small businesses and nonprofits across the south and southeast to help them navigate and rebuild from the Covid-19 economic crisis. To date, SOAR has deployed an initial $11 million in flexible, low-interest loans across 14 states and Washington, D.C, with 80% of loans going to business owned by women and entrepreneurs of color. Read more here.

Visit their website.

Small Business News You Can Use


Is a rural business wave afoot? by WilmingtonBiz

New businesses are forming in Southeastern North Carolina’s rural counties at a dramatic and unprecedented rate. Statewide, business creations were up 55% between January and mid-September this year. As of Nov. 9, North Carolina has seen 157,000 new business filings. Read more.


NC IDEA expands ecosystem network with 15 new partnership grants by WRAL TechWire

NC IDEA announced on Friday 15 new partnerships through the organization’s ECOSYSTEM program at the Foundation’s 2021 Ecosystem Summit. The partnerships, known as regional impact grants, are meant to “further strengthen the infrastructure supporting North Carolina entrepreneurs.” Read more.


Commerce Issues 2022 Economic Development Tier Rankings by NC Dept. of Commerce

The North Carolina Department of Commerce released the county tier designations for 2022 today.  The designations, which are mandated by state law, play a role in several programs that assist in economic development. Eleven counties will change tier designations for 2022. Read more.


Mountain BizWorks expands services with new business brokerage by Mountain Xpress

Longtime small business funding and educational institution, Mountain BizWorks announced yesterday evening at its Mountain Raise event that it will expand its services to help entrepreneurs across Western North Carolina manage the often complex process of selling and purchasing businesses. The new venture is called Mountain BizWorks Market Advisors and has already begun working with some select small businesses in the region. Read more.


N.C. stands alone atop Site Selection's business climate ranking for 2021 by Winston-Salem Journal

North Carolina stands alone again in possessing the nation's top business climate for 2021, according to Site Selection magazine. North Carolina edged out Georgia for the top honor after the states tied for first place in the 2020 rankings. 

Read more.

NC Rural Center
4021 Carya Dr. | Raleigh, NC 27610
(919) 250-4314 |

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