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WNC Business

The Industrial Commons awarded ARC ARISE Grant for The Innovation Campus

Oct 11, 2023 08:02PM ● By Randee Brown

Community-focused organization The Industrial Commons has advanced one step closer to meeting their fundraising goals for The Innovation Campus, a 27-acre development that will showcase the innovation of Western North Carolina’s manufacturing sector. The Appalachian Regional Commission announced a $10M ARISE grant to The Industrial Commons to support the construction of a 40,000 sq. ft. accelerator facility at the Campus.

“My sincerest congratulations to new ARISE grantee The Industrial Commons as they lead the charge for job training and new textile manufacturing practices that will not only encourage economic development and collaboration in North Carolina, but across the entire Appalachian region,” said ARC Federal Co-Chair Gayle Manchin. “Having seen their work first-hand, I find their efforts both ambitious and inspiring, and am proud to have them as a driving force behind the next era of our region’s success.”

The project will allow TIC, which is broadly recognized as an “economic engine” in western North Carolina, to expand its reach, supporting entrepreneurs and established companies throughout NC, eastern Tennessee and upstate South Carolina. The Accelerator Building will serve as a hub for the emerging textile circular economy, which TIC and their enterprise Material Return, are at the forefront of. It will house skilled training facilities, as well as incubator space for start-ups and scaling brands working in the circular economy.

The federal grant was matched by funding from The Kendeda Fund and is the largest non-highway construction grant ever awarded by ARC. TIC has completed the schematic design process for Phase 1A of the campus, which encompasses approximately 3.5 acres of the 27 -acre site. With funding from the NC General Assembly, TIC will complete the design process over the course of 2024 and plan to break ground on the building at the end of the year.

“We are honored by this investment from ARC,” said TIC Co-Executive Director Sara Chester. “We have worked closely with ARC since our formation and owe them a tremendous amount of gratitude for supporting our work in Appalachia over the years. We hope the Campus can become a showcase for young people in our region to show them what’s possible, and also serve as a beacon nationwide for community leaders who are seeking more sustainable and resilient economic solutions for their own communities.”

In addition to support from the Appalachian Regional Commission, The Kendeda Fund and the North Carolina General Assembly, the project has been supported financially by the Environmental Protection Agency, The Cannon Foundation, the J.M. Kaplan Fund and an anonymous donor from the region who provided funding for TIC to purchase the land in 2021. TIC has set a fundraising goal of $45.6M for Phase 1 of the campus, which includes site development of 10 acres and the first building,the Accelerator Building. Over the next 5-10 years TIC anticipates developing the remaining 18 acres and adding 3 to 4 additional buildings to support the growing circular economy manufacturing supply chain. With ARC’s investment TIC has expended $2.75 million, raised a total of $23.29 million, and has approximately $22 million left to raise.

“This project speaks to true community collaboration,” said TIC Co-Executive Director Molly Hemstreet. “The City of Morganton, Burke County, Burke Development, Inc. the Western Piedmont Council of Governments and many others have been extremely supportive throughout the design and planning process. We have an excellent design team and architecture firm in Mithun, which has encouraged us to pursue our ambitious environmental goals for the Campus. We look forward to it being a transformational space for the Appalachian region and the innovative work we do in the textile and furniture sectors.”

“President Biden’s Investing in America agenda is growing the economy from the bottom up and middle out, bringing good-paying jobs to communities that have too long been overlooked,” said Mitch Landrieu, Senior Advisor to the President and White House Infrastructure Coordinator. “These new ARISE awards will expand opportunity, boost domestic manufacturing, and bring the benefits of a clean energy economy to communities in Southern Appalachia.”

ARISE (Appalachian Regional Initiative for Stronger Economies) is ARC’s initiative to drive large-scale, regional economic transformation through multi-state collaborative projects across Appalachia. Using funding through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, also known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021, ARC launched ARISE in August of 2022 to strengthen Appalachian business and industry, and to grow and support the development of new economic opportunities across multiple states. A total of $227 million has been made available through ARISE to date.

“This $10 million ARC ARISE grant is a game-changer for Western North Carolina to showcase and advance their manufacturing industry,” said Senator Tillis. “I look forward to seeing the success of the Innovation Campus by The Industrial Commons, and I will continue to support efforts to bring economic development to the Western part of the state.”

“We are thrilled that The Industrial Commons has been awarded this $10 million competitive grant. I was happy to work with Senator Tillis to support this project,” said Senator Ted Budd. “These dollars will not only boost our state’s economic competitiveness, but it will lift up an entire region by constructing a workforce training center that will cultivate the talent pool across multiple states. I have no doubt that North Carolina’s heritage of textile manufacturing will continue to grow and thrive with help from this award.”

About The Industrial Commons:
The Industrial Commons is a 501(c)(3) founded in 2015. Their mission is to rebuild a diverse working class based on locally rooted wealth. They do this by founding and scaling employee owned social enterprises, creating industry networks and delivering a suite of workforce development and youth engagement programs. To learn more about TIC, visit

About the Appalachian Regional Commission:
The Appalachian Regional Commission is an economic development entity of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 423 counties across the Appalachian Region. ARC’s mission is to innovate, partner, and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia to help the Region achieve socioeconomic parity with the nation. Learn more about ARISE at
Source: The Industrial Commons