Community and 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

Disaster Recovery Financial Administration Training

View resources from our Disaster Recovery Financial Administration Training.

Access the participant guides here: 

Module One Participant Guide

Module Two Participant Guide

Module Three Participant Guide

View the associated training videos on our YouTube channel!

Additional Resources:


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 and 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


In 2022, the Southwestern Commission engaged in a planning process focused on addressing the digital divide in Region A. The objective was to identify barriers preventing citizens from adopting internet services and formulate a strategy to alleviate these obstacles. Recognizing the pivotal role of digital access in people’s lives and its impact on community empowerment and engagement, the Southwestern Commission crafted Region A’s Digital Inclusion Plans. These plans propose measures to eliminate barriers to success for citizens in rural Western North Carolina, ensuring they have the necessary digital access, devices, skills, and confidence to secure jobs, earn degrees, and actively participate in the world. By “Closing the Digital Divide,” the aim is to level the playing field and bring Western North Carolina in line with the broader state, country, and global standards.


View broadband profiles for each county in the region below:

NC BroadbandProfile 2023

GRAHAM NC BroadbandProfile 2023

CLAY NC BroadbandProfile 2023

CHEROKEE NC BroadbandProfile 2023

HAYWOOD NC BroadbandProfile 2023

JACKSON NC BroadbandProfile 2023

MACON NC BroadbandProfile 2023

SWAIN NC BroadbandProfile 2023

View additional broadband resources below: 

2020 Free Wifi Hotspot Map
2020 Broadband Next Steps Webinar
2020 Vertical Asset Inventory
2020 SWC Wireless Propagation Study
2019 Broadband Summit Resources
2018 Region A Broadband Assessment
2017 Broadband Summit Resources

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.


Directed Grants – Information and Resources 

Welcome to the Southwestern Commission’s Directed Grant program resource guide!

These grants, outlined in the state budget appropriations act, specify funds allocated to named organizations for predefined purposes, with the responsible state agency detailed within the legislation. Drawing from various funding sources, including recurring and nonrecurring funds, these grants adhere to statutory regulations such as G.S. 143C-6-23 and 09 NCAC 03M.

If you are a recipient of a directed grant from the Southwestern Commission, here are some useful resources.

Directed Grants Explained 

Directed Grant Training PowerPoint

Directed Grant Checklist

Fillable Scope of Work

Scope Of Work Example 1

Scope Of Work Example 2

Quarterly Performance Report Directed Grants

Reimbursement Form


Region A Opioid Settlement

North Carolina is set to receive $1.5 billion from a $56 billion national opioid settlement. This substantial funding aims to provide crucial relief to communities deeply affected by the opioid crisis. The allocated funds will be directed toward supporting essential initiatives such as treatment, recovery, harm reduction, and other life-saving programs and services across the state.

View our strategic planning process and survey HERE

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) 

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.



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