Patrick Woodie is an Alleghany County native who grew up in Piney Creek, attended Alleghany High School in Sparta, and graduated from Wake Forest Law School. Most everybody, who has been active in economic development in the High Country, knows and respects Patrick. He is, without a doubt, one of Alleghany’s best Ambassadors’.

We call ’em cuttin’ boards

Ben Massey and Patrick Woodie

Ben Massey and Patrick Woodie

I participated in The NC Rural Center’s “Annual Summit” this past week. The very first gentleman that I met at the Summit, who as it turns out was the previous NC Rural Center President, told me that Patrick never tells a story without including some reference to Piney Creek or Alleghany County. I learned this was true in his speech when, as the current President of the NC Rural Center, Patrick held up a charcuterie board and said, “In Piney Creek, we just call these boards, ‘cuttin’ boards’”.

During my two days at the Summit, the vast influence and deep respect that Patrick has acquired from leaders in all sectors of the rural economic development world across the State of North Carolina was obvious. Yet, he has never lost his mountain accent or forgotten his roots and friends in Piney Creek and Alleghany County.

Patrick started his career serving as the first Executive Director for the Alleghany Chamber of Commerce, first Executive Director of a startup nonprofit, New River Community Partners, and served on the Alleghany County Commissioners before joining The NC Rural Center in 2006, and finally, becoming President in 2010.

Building Vibrant Communities

For those of you who are not familiar with the NC Rural Center, I would highly recommend that you check out the website. The NC Rural Center was originally funded by the NC General Assembly during Governor’s Hunt’s administration and opened its doors in 1987 “with the vision of an improved quality of life for all rural North Carolinians.”

Change Science and Revitalization

The Summit was fantastic! Elaine Marshall (Secretary of State), Former Congressman Bob Etheridge (State Executive Director, USDA), members of the State Legislature, leaders in town government and chambers of commerce, CEOs of major companies, utilities, cooperatives, lending institutions, tech companies, community college leaders, and most importantly, entrepreneurs, farmers, pastors, and as Harry Chapin would say, “folks that made America famous” were all there learning and networking around the issues of concern to rural communities like ours.

The Opening Keynote, presented by Becky McCray, Co-Founder, SaveYourTown, discussed ways that rural communities could use change-science and a behavioral approach for development and innovation to revitalize their towns and communities. There were break-out presentations for everyone’s interests. (For example: How Churches Can Create Resilient Communities, Fostering School-Community Partnerships, Vacationer Supported Agriculture, Growing Entrepreneurs, Wave of Latino Entrepreneurs, Building a Better Broadband, Leadership, and Role of Ownership in Saving Rural Jobs).

Growing Entrepreneurs and Revitalization

One presentation that I’d like to highlight was “Growing Entrepreneurs for a Stronger Economy”. This presentation told a story about how the small town of Marion, NC has reversed its decline by fostering small business start-ups by developing a Growing Entrepreneurs Marion (GEM) Program, which has totally revitalized their downtown, turned Marion into a destination town, and has positively impacted Marion’s economy. Bryan Edwards, President of the Alleghany Chamber of Economic Development, who also attended this presentation, commented that “this approach could be really beneficial to small towns in the High Country”.

Anyone wanting to better serve their rural community should seriously consider attending next year’s Summit and getting involved with the NC Rural Center. I guarantee you that you won’t be disappointed!