About Wilkes County

Nestled into the Blue Ridge Mountains and foothills of northwest North Carolina, Wilkes County and the surrounding area has a rich history of entrepreneurship as the birthplace of Lowe’s, NASCAR, and numerous other companies in the last 100 years.

The area also has a history as, arguably, the Moonshine Capital of the U.S., is home to the Blue Ridge Parkway, the most visited National Park in the country, and has been a leader in rural broadband internet infrastructure in the state — and the southeast as a whole.

Community partner

NC Tech Paths launched publicly in January 2022, and in its first nine months had already trained and placed 24 individuals into technology jobs, resulting in more than a 70% average earnings growth for participants. NC Tech Paths secured $2.5 million to build its first Rural Tech Outpost, called The Masthead, set to open in January 2023. The facility will serve as a hub for the region’s entrepreneur and tech community, serving Wilkes County as well as neighboring Ashe and Alleghany counties, in addition to several others in northwestern North Carolina and nearby Virginia and Tennessee.

We are thrilled to join the Rural Innovation Network. Before launching NC Tech Paths, we followed CORI's research and advocacy, and look forward to becoming part of the national network of communities on the leading edge of building rural prosperity in the digital economy.

Zach Barricklow, Executive Director, NC Tech Paths

Explore our Network

Today, these local leaders are focused on educating and training local residents in digital skills (especially those traditionally excluded from the tech industry), employing them in new economy jobs, and empowering them to launch startups that will drive a prosperous 21st-century economy. Diverse in geography, economic origin, and demographics, these communities represent the full spectrum of rural America.