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Rural Areas In N.C. Lag Behind Urban Areas Economically

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EDGECOMBE COUNTY — A decade of robust growth in North Carolina has brought little relief to many rural communities.

State leaders say rural areas are still being outpaced economically by urban counties.

According to the North Carolina Rural Economy Development Center, the rural per capita income is just over $19,000, nearly $6,000 less than urban areas. Considering the recent job layoffs in the state, nearly 60 percent of displaced workers live in rural areas.

Officials say the problems stem fromHurricane Floyd'swrath through rural counties.

"It has really accentuated and accelerated the difficulties that many of the people in rural North Carolina face," said Kelly King, chairman of the center.

The number of people living in rural communities may surprise you.

Of the 7.5 million people living in North Carolina, almost 3.9 million live in rural areas. Of the state's 100 counties, 85 are rural.

One of the ideas the Rural Economy Development Center offered was funding for water and sewer, a tool that industry recruiters say is critical to attracting new jobs.

"Water and sewer are basic to any location of development, and it is obviously one of the first things that you have to have," said John Gessaman of Carolinas Gateway Partnership.

The center also recommends a new funding formula for some public schools, an idea that some educators are quick to embrace.

"We are limited in our resources," said George Thigpen, Superintendent ofEdgecombe County Schools. "There is a direct correlation between having available resources and equality and quantity of educational programs that you can offer."


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