North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has launched a new initiative, dubbed Hometown Strong, that focuses on partnering with local leaders to stimulate economies in rural communities and help businesses thrive in those areas.

“Small communities like the one I grew up in have a special character and so much to offer,” Cooper said.  “They deserve a real partner in state government and a chance to thrive.”

Hometown Strong will work with local governments by focusing on projects such as infrastructure improvements, broadband access, and workforce training.

Through existing and new partnerships with local leaders from government, business, non-profit organizations, the philanthropic community and others, Hometown Strong will seek to leverage state and local resources to help complete local development projects, convene conversations between state and local agencies, and identify long-term projects that can encourage prosperity in rural communities.

“Helping rural North Carolina thrive is one of my top priorities,” Cooper said. “Families in rural communities aren’t looking for mandates from Raleigh – they want state government to listen and help when asked. We’ll listen to local leaders to make sure they’re getting the support they need to help their communities prosper.”

Cooper has appointed Pryor Gibson and Mary Penny Kelley to lead Hometown Strong. Initial partnerships between rural counties and Hometown Strong will be announced this spring.

Pryor Gibson is a former member of the North Carolina General Assembly who represented House District 96, which includes Anson, Montgomery, and Union counties. He also served as executive vice president of the North Carolina Forestry Association and as senior adviser for governmental affairs for Governor Bev Perdue. Gibson is a Wadesboro native.

Mary Penny Kelley formerly served as senior advisor for policy and innovation at the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, where she had also served as an executive attorney for nearly a decade. Additionally, she served as an Assistant Attorney General within the North Carolina Department of Justice and as an attorney in private practice. Kelley is a resident of Spring Hope.

“When you face a challenge in small towns like mine, you solve it by bringing everyone around the table. That’s an idea that state government could use more of,” Gibson said. “There is so much to be excited about in North Carolina’s rural communities and Governor Cooper has made it clear that they should have a real partner in Raleigh. I look forward to getting to work.”