Arts, Culture and Design in Rural North Carolina

Much of North Carolina’s rural economy is being challenged by a rapid loss
of employment in traditional manufacturing base. Labor-intensive manufacturing
had been the bread and butter of rural growth over the latter
decades of the 20th century, turning a heavily agricultural economy into
America’s most industrialized state.

Globalization, however, has cost rural
North Carolina its cost-based competitive advantage. Newer technology-based industries
such as biotechnology or information technologies hold some promise for rural areas but
tend to be drawn to cities and are unlikely to replace many of the jobs that have been

North Carolina’s rural areas have other aspects of their economies, however, that have
been overlooked and perhaps neglected by past economic development practices
because they do not lend themselves standard forms of economic analysis. That is, the
segment of the economy that has developed around particular creative and cultural
assets of places and people. This creative element of rural economies contributes to
growth in four ways:

• As local amenities that attract tourists, talent, and jobs and help retain youth

• As products and services that reach external markets

• As secondary income raising family incomes

• As new, more sustainable, sources of competitive advantage for traditional companies.

RTS • Carrboro, North Carolina •

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