The NC Certified Retirement Community Program (CRCP) was developed by the NC Department of Commerce. Its objective is to encourage retirees and those planning to retire the opportunity to make North Carolina their home and promoted the state as a retirement destination.

The program was established by the state legislature in 2008. Lumberton became the first participant in 2010. Asheboro was accepted two weeks ago.

North Carolina is only the sixth state in the nation to adopt a retirement community certification program, but the idea is catching on.

“North Carolina currently enjoys a robust in-migration of retirees to the state, and this program seeks to attract retirees and encourage them to make their homes here,” said Lynn Minges, Assistant Commerce Secretary for Tourism, Marketing and Global Branding. “The program encourages mature market travelers to visit North Carolina and evaluate our state as a desirable place to retire.”

To gain certification, a local government must submit an application that includes a comprehensive community survey and assessment tool that spans numerous dimensions reflective of the city’s readiness for retiree attraction. The town is evaluated on criteria important to retirees, including affordable cost of living, low taxes, low crime rate, access to quality medical care, and opportunities for education, culture and recreation.

Size of the population is not a consideration, nor whether the community is situated in a rural or urban setting. The lack of affordable senior housing is also not an issue because, if the community is certified, developers would likely be influenced to build.

The application fee for the program is $10,000. At a previous Town Board meeting, commissioners gave tentative approval for the program, dependent on receiving outside funding for the application fee. Since then, Galloway Ridge has verbally committed to cover $1,500 of the cost and Fitch Creations, Inc., dba Fearrington Village, will match this amount. Other private donations will be solicited.

Communities selected for certification will receive inclusion in state-level marketing efforts, technical assistance, network opportunities and grant funding to support their program.

The Pittsboro Town Board appointed commissioner Bett Wilson Foley to chair a committee to oversee the application process. She will recruit 7-10 members.

The committee plans to start meeting in July in preparation for submitting an application in January, 2013.

If a municipality’s application is accepted, the community is certified and the Bureau of Tourism is responsible for marketing.

“We entice them to come to North Carolina and then kick them off to individual communities,” said Andre Nabors, tourism development manager with the NC Dept. of Commerce.

He added that the program requires that Pittsboro develop a long-range plan for attracting retirees to settle here.

Participation ends after five years and then the municipality must reapply to continue.

Siler City is also in the process of submitting an application through a citizen’s committee set up through the STEP program. The committee submitted an application that was returned as incomplete but is working to continue the process.