This paper describes the economic and social challenges faced by Enfield, a small town in rural northeastern North Carolina, and the efforts by the Center for Competitive Economies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to assist the community in a strategic economic development plan to address these challenges. In particular, the paper outlines the challenges and tensions between place-based versus people-based economic development approaches and how these tensions are generalizeable to other rural small towns. Lastly, the paper concludes that even the most effective economic development strategies may only impact the community marginally given the larger confluence of events in the broader region, such as general population loss due to outmigration, declining traditional industries, and stagnant regional economies.


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