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Golden Leaf helps Rural Center reach eastern region.

ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. [03.19.04] — The Golden LEAF Foundation gave $2 million to the North Carolina Rural Economic Center to bring broadband Internet access to locations in Eastern North Carolina.

The funds will go to a project to install improved Internet connections and e-learning systems in 32,000 locations, including 50 public schools, in 39 eastern counties.

Economic development officials in the region hope the project will attract new business, create jobs, improve healthcare in remote areas and prepare school children to be competitive in the new economy.

The project is run by e-NC, a government group created by the state to provide Internet connections in rural regions and housed and staffed by the Rural Center, says Elaine Matthews, vice president of communications and development at the Rural Center.

The Albermarle Pamlico Economic Development Commission, Sprint, Rural Internet Access Authority, University Health Services and MCNC also are involved in the project.

The $2 million grant is one of 53 grants the foundation made in 2003, totaling over $9.6 million.

The foundation was created in 1999 by court order from the national tobacco litigation involving North Carolina and 45 other states against tobacco manufacturers.

The foundation eventually will get $2.3 billion, half of North Carolina’s share of the settlement, and use it to help improve the economy in regions of the state affected by or dependent on tobacco.

Since 1999, the foundation has given over $105 million to nonprofits and government groups throughout the state.

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