Planning Services & Tools

Our Rural Planning team provides economic development planning and related assistance to rural communities across the state. Part of the NC Main Street & Rural Planning Center, the Rural Planning program has staff members based in each North Carolina Prosperity Zone.

Services Offered

Strategic Economic Development Planning & Implementation Services

  • One-day strategic planning workshops
  • Two-day economic development assessments
  • Five-year strategic plan and program development
  • Implementation plan development
  • Resource identification

Technical Support

  • Assistance with a wide range of community and economic development needs (planning for high impact areas or development policy review, for example)
  • Community-specific assistance (geospatial analysis & mapping to evaluate economic opportunities or developing solutions to address particular economic development issues or needs, for example)

Training and Education

  • Workshops and other training opportunities
  • Research and information-sharing (regarding best practices and success stories, for example)

For more information about Rural Planning program services or to discuss your community's specific needs, please contact Darren Rhodes, Rural Planning Program Manager, at, or the Prosperity Zone planner assigned to your region (contact information can be found here).

Rural Planning Resources

Guidebook on Local Planning for Healthy Communities

Guidebook on Local Planning for Healthy Communities

Consistent with its mission, the NC Department of Commerce sponsored preparation of a guidebook on integrating healthy planning principles into local comprehensive plans. The document has statewide applicability and provides technical assistance to municipalities and counties in solving local planning problems. Its focus is on multiple dimensions of healthy community planning, but it goes beyond that basic task to provide a resource guide for towns, cities, and counties in preparing a variety of local plans in addition to comprehensive plans.

Guidebook on Local Planning for Healthy Communities

Designing Better Places

Designing Better Places

Why do many towns and cities seem to have split personalities? The older areas, built before World War II, feel inviting. It’s possible to walk safely, the buildings are interesting to look at, and there are places where you’d like to sit and visit. In contrast, the majority of places built in the past 60 years feel totally different. Newer commercial areas are often accessible only by vehicle, and when you’re not inside a building, lingering doesn’t seem appealing.

Thanks to funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission, in 2013 the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Division  produced a video and two presentations on design issues that strive to answer why this is, how it happened, and what can be done to create more successful and inviting places that people and cars can share. First released on a CD, in 2005 it received the Award for Excellence from the Small Town & Rural Planning Division of the American Planning Association.

For more information about the video, presentations, and other materials associated with the Designing Better Places project, contact Karen Smith, Coordinator, Rural Solutions, with the NC Main Street & Rural Planning Center at