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Economic Opportunity


Health & Wellness

We believe the ability to earn an income which can sufficiently support a family is at the foundation of sustaining a healthy life. We believe economic opportunity is a powerful tool to overcome poverty and to improve all social determinants of health. Dogwood Health Trust’s Economic Opportunity portfolio aims to equitably support every western North Carolinian in their efforts to earn a wage that will allow them to support themselves and their family, regardless of status, gender or ethnicity.

Economic Opportunity Grant Activity 2023

Western North Carolina has remarkable assets that are economic cornerstones for community prosperity. Our economic ecosystem includes everything from small business entrepreneurs to international manufacturing centers. Our challenge is to address barriers to economic sustainability – improving connectivity across our region, increasing access to capital, and building a workforce that is ready to engage in jobs that offer both fulfillment and financial security to help individuals and families build wealth.  

Within our overarching Goals and Objectives (see below) our 2023 Economic Opportunity focus areas and activities include:  

  • Increase WNC’s current and future workforce by collaborating with continuing technical education programs while also addressing workforce recruitment and retention strategies in industries and sectors related to Dogwood’s other Strategic Priority areas. We will emphasize strategies rooted in communities of color and/or rural communities. 
  • Build the connectivity and capacity of entrepreneurial networks that push forward collaborative sector development strategies and bolster rural communities and or communities of color. 
  • Support strategies centered on high-leverage opportunities which result in quality job creation and retention as well as business creation and expansion within communities of color and/or rural communities. 
  • Increase broadband access and/or adoption through high-leverage opportunities, while ensuring communities have strong digital inclusion practices. 

More details about 2023 grant opportunities will be coming soon. Please join our mailing list for updates or check this webpage. 

Economic Opportunity Goals & Objectives

Partner Highlights

McDowell Technical Community College Construction Trade Skills Academy

Eagle Market Streets Community Development Corporation

Mountain BizWorks Accelerating Outdoors

Western Piedmont Community College

WNC Food Works

Hinton Rural Life Center

Welding, STEM, and culinary workers with "EARN" written on top.

McDowell Technical Community College Construction Trade Skills Academy

McDowell Community Technical College, in partnership with Dogwood, has developed an innovative curriculum to provide practical skills training in general construction, construction project management and a specialized elective in modular housing installation. Students can participate in paid internships before and after high school graduation at single-family modular home construction sites and in the home repair program, both of which are administered by Gateway Wellness Foundation. This program will produce a ready stream of skilled construction workers and project managers for a sector that has a shortage of employees.

Eagle Market Streets Community Development Corporation

Dogwood provided initial funding for the Community Equity Fund at Eagle Market Streets Community Development Corporation to help increase access to flexible capital for entrepreneurs of color. By providing access to capital, technical assistance and the support of a cohort, the Community Equity Fund is expected to serve up to 30 businesses and support approximately 150 jobs to help BIPOC business owners and workers begin to build assets and create wealth. For each family that has one member that owns a business, the wealth gap decreases from 12% to 3%.

Mountain BizWorks Accelerating Outdoors

At its core, the Mountain BizWorks Accelerating Outdoors project connects the health of WNC’s economy to the health of its people and places. Access to the outdoors is a powerful driver of population health, and equitable access is a core part of this project. Dogwood’s funding deepens engagement with rural and economically distressed communities, including helping rural people enjoy the amazing outdoor assets in their backyards and build businesses and careers centered around the outdoors. This includes working with BIPOC communities in WNC to elevate both existing and new organizations that are dedicated to getting more people of color outdoors and into the outdoor industry.

Western Piedmont Community College

Getting into college is an education milestone, but for many students, staying in college and navigating the educational, social/emotional and financial demands is a much bigger challenge. That’s why Western Piedmont Community College and Dogwood invested in College Success Coaches to aid students in their college education journey. The college created positions for two Success Coaches responsible for contacting and regularly interacting with students, especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic and virtual learning. Coaches help students understand “how to be a student” in addition to how to engage in their virtual classes. Research shows that students assigned a coach are 4% more likely to stay enrolled for two academic years and that success coaching results in a 9% increase in credential completion.

WNC Food Works

WNC is a busy ecosystem of farms, food producers, restaurants and other food-related businesses. With help from WNC FoodWorks, more budding businesses can become part of the regional food economy. Operated by WNC Blue Ridge Food Ventures, WNC FoodWorks is a 5,000 square foot training and educational facility for aspiring food entrepreneurs, located at the WNC Farmers Market in Asheville. WNC FoodWorks serves as an entry-level facility for new and aspiring entrepreneurs such as food truck operators, farm-based businesses, value-added products and others requiring support to launch new food business enterprises. The venture anticipates 36 new enterprises and 50 new jobs within the first three years after opening. They also expect that more than 200 individuals will receive technical guidance on proper food manufacturing and marketing.

Hinton Rural Life Center

Strong leaders are critical in rural communities, and the skills and abilities of local leadership can have a drastic impact on the quality of life in a region. As an organization that values leadership development, Hinton Rural Life Center saw a need for rural leadership development and created a leadership program that addresses rural-specific issues that leaders face in their communities. The program began with a local leadership program called Leadership Chatuge. The program has graduated three classes, and Dogwood’s partnership provided support for a fourth, with an expectation to graduate approximately 15-25 leaders in 2022 in the westernmost subregion of Dogwood’s footprint.

Economic Opportunity | Goal 2

Promote Work Readiness

Help build a skilled workforce with the knowledge and technical abilities to excel in a wide range of industry employment opportunities that provide a competitive, sustainable wage

Objective 2.1: Close the educational attainment gap in WNC, staying on pace with regional and county-specific projections (myFutureNC 2030).

Economic Opportunity | Goal 3

Build Economic Ecosystems

Help build a regional economic ecosystem that supports increased creation/retention of jobs and business ownership

Objective 3.1: Improve access to higher-paying jobs throughout the region, targeting the lowest income populations

Objective 3.2: Increase and retain quality jobs

Objective 3.3: Stimulate economic growth, catalyzing businesses and revenue

Economic Opportunity | Goal 4

Foster Entrepreneurship

Support a well-funded, sustainable, competitive entrepreneur and small business ecosystem throughout the region

Objective 4.1: Increase the number of Person of Color (POC)-led small businesses throughout the region

Objective 4.2: Increase the number of rural small businesses throughout the region