The Carolinas Urban-Rural Connection

In 2017, The Duke Endowment’s Rural Church program awarded the Urban Institute a two-year grant for a research and community engagement-based project intended to bring greater understanding to the economic and social interdependence that shaped regional growth in the central Carolinas over the past century, as well as the state of intraregional connections today.

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Places

From mountains to river valleys, and big cities to small towns, the Carolinas Urban-Rural Connection study area is full of diverse landscapes, a wealth of natural resources, and a rich cultural heritage. How are the region's people using various place-based economic strategies in pursuit of prosperity? Follow along for articles on these topics in October.

Policy & Practice

How are the hundreds of municipalities and governments in the Carolinas Urban-Rural Connection study area pursuing economic development, fostering entrepreneurship and trying to grow their economies? How has the region branded itself throughout the years? What impact does the N.C./S.C. border have on our region's development? Follow along for articles on these topics in November.

 

The UNC Charlotte Urban Institute was founded in the late 1960s with the mission of bringing together the intellectual resources of the university to address the economic, environmental and social challenges facing the greater Charlotte region. 

Historically, our region has prospered together, with Charlotte and the less-populated surrounding communities creating a web of mutually supportive economic and cultural ties. As the region transitioned from a largely agricultural economy to one driven by textile mills and rural factories, those connections strengthened, powering the region’s emergence onto the national, then global, stage.

But has that fabric of interdependence and mutually beneficial relationships frayed - or even torn - in past decades, as industries, employment patterns and demographics shifted rapidly? 

The Carolinas Urban-Rural Connection is guided by a belief that the ties between our communities still matter and can be restored, that bridges between our urban, suburban and rural centers are worth saving and rebuilding. The project team is investigating a large body of data and facilitating conversations with individuals and small groups to carry out this work.  

The areas of research interest include economic relationships, regional food systems, commuting patterns, demographic shifts over time, the contribution of natural and cultural resources to economic vitality, efforts to boost economic development and entrepreneurship, philanthropy and leadership among the region’s many inhabitants. 

The 32-county study area is big and diverse, covering 16,000 square miles and home to 4 million people. Our project will, we hope, spark more discussions and point the way to restoring some of the connections that have historically brought prosperity to so many communities.