Community & Economic Development

Dependable water and sewer. Safe septic systems. Affordable housing.
Job creation. Workforce training and retraining. A diverse economy.

Since 1965, the Southwestern Commission (SWC) has worked to assist our member governments as they seek to improve both the quality of life and the economy in our region’s communities. We do this through regional economic development, by providing much needed short-term working capital financing, partnering with others to fund regional projects, and providing much needed data and demographics to further improve our region and plan for the future.

Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy

The Southwestern Commission serves as the Economic Development District for the U.S. Economic Development Administration.  One of the functions that we carry out as part of that role is to create the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) for the region.  The plan is a 5-year plan, but updates are completed annually to reflect implementation and changes to the regional economy.  The plan, created by a variety of stakeholders from across the region, attempts to address critical issues that impact the region such as broadband access, housing, and access to capital.

2022 CEDS 4-Page Summary
2022 CEDS Full Report

The Mountain West Partnership

The MountainWest Partnership is a regional economic development marketing initiative for the seven far western counties in North Carolina, Western Carolina University, and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI). Guided by local assets and strengths, the partnership’s efforts aim to tell the true story of what it’s like to do business in the region, and to connect people and businesses with the resources they need to be successful.

Revolving Loan Fund

The Southwestern Commission (SWC) is the Development District serving the seven western counties of North Carolina (Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon, and Swain Counties).  SWC’s Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) is an economic development tool to assist in the creation of jobs in local business and industry by offering short-term fixed asset, equipment and working capital financing that is available in the seven western counties of NC.  It is jointly funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Economic Development Administration, the State of North Carolina, and the Southwestern Commission.

Access the loan application.

Funding & Partnering Agencies

The SWC receives funding through several agencies, including the Economic Development Administration (EDA) and the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC). The SWC has been identified by the EDA as an Economic Development District (EDD), and each EDD can be eligible for EDA funding for the purpose of economic development within the region.  Every several years, the SWC creates a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS), which serves to identify goals as well as strategies to accomplish those goals in the region, and the SWC reports back annually about the organization’s success in completing these goals and strategies.

The SWC also serves as one of 73 designated Local Development Districts (LDDs) under the ARC. LDDs are in place to ensure that ARC funds are used effectively and efficiently and also to strengthen local participation within the district. The most important role, however, is to identify priority needs of local communities, and to work with board members and other local citizens to develop plans for economic development within communities.

The following is a list of several of the organizations with whom we partner:
ARC- Appalachian Regional Commission
NC Department of Commerce
EDA- Economic Development Administration
NCDOT- North Carolina Department of Transportation
USDA- United States Department of Agriculture
County Economic Developers
Smoky Mountain Host
The Cherokee Preservation Foundation
The Community Foundation
The Sequoyah Fund

2020 SWC Virtual Funders Forum Video
SWC Funders Forum Contacts


Master List of Existing Plans

Counties and Towns throughout the region have created plans, conducted studies, and prepared other documents that help to guide their decisions for their respective jurisdictions. 

To access these plans, please visit our Master List of Existing Plans for the region.


Geographic Information System

The Southwestern Commission has in-house GIS capacity.  We serve as a regional clearinghouse of GIS data for the seven western counties, and offer technical services to our member governments upon request.  Most of our GIS work in recent years has focused on asset mapping and assisting policy makers with land use regulations.  Every county in the region now has a GIS managed land parcel database system.



The WNC Food Route project is a one-stop-shop for local food and food access resources for Southwestern North Carolina.  Whether you are looking for a farmers’ market or a food pantry, a farm, or a processing site, you can find those resources here.

Western North Carolina Food Route

Over the past several years, the Southwestern Commission has partnered with the Mountain West Partnership, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and other regional partners to create a video series, funded by Cherokee Preservation Foundation, that highlights agriculture in our region.  

“Harvest” Video
“Planting the Seeds” Video
“Cherokee Stories” Video
“Mountain Farms, Mountain Towns” Video
“Mountain Farms, Mountain Towns 2” Video

Economic Development Data