Rural Job Accelerator expanding capacity and supporting job growth for rural communities
Louisiana Tech VP for Research and Development, Les Guice (right), demonstrates the innovative technology students at LA Tech are creating at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Information Technology
RUSTON, LA – Delta Regional Authority Federal Co-Chairman Chris Masingill recently joined Economic Development Administration and USDA Rural Development officials at Louisiana Tech University to celebrate a new partnership and program that will create jobs and build community capacity for economic development in North Louisiana and South Arkansas. Through a partnership between Winrock International Institute for Agriculture Development and Louisiana Tech, the I-20 Corridor Accelerator will utilize local and regional business leaders to create mentor programs and trainings for aspiring entrepreneurs and stimulate economic activity in small communities of the region. The I-20 Corridor Accelerator was one of 13 national recipients of the White House Rural Council’s Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge and one of two programs in the Delta to receive funding.
“Promoting job growth in economic clusters continues President Obama’s commitment to growing and investing in the nation's rural communities. When you have a stronger rural America, you have a stronger America,” Chairman Masingill said. DRA hosted a winners roundtable to showcase the economic development investments being made in the region and to discuss the potential impact the Accelerator will have on the region. Participants in the roundtable included Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce, Matt Erskine, USDA Rural Development Louisiana State Director, Clarence Hawkins, representatives from Winrock International, and leadership from Louisiana Tech. Prior to the roundtable, Louisiana Tech officials provided a tour of the campus as well as the University's Center on Entrepreneurship and Information Technology.
For the full announcement of Challenge winners, click here
Illinois: County Commissioner uses experience with Delta Leadership Institute and local Chamber to serve her community
Commissioner Tracey Glenn is a woman who strives to bring many “firsts” to her community. A lifelong resident and public servant of Williamson County in Southern Illinois, Commissioner Glenn is well known in her area for her successful campaign to become the first woman elected to the Williamson County Board of Commissioners. Charged with a desire to transform her community and confidence that she was the right person for the job, Glenn has spent the past six years helping her county grow and prepare to take advantage of any opportunities available.
Utilizing her experience working with the Marion and Carterville Chambers of Commerce, Commissioner Glenn led the drafting of the first strategic plan for Williamson County and is proud that the Board is now working on its second strategic plan now that all initial goals have been achieved. She has also developed the county’s first formal recycling program that utilizes four recycling trailers to collect recycling from businesses, schools, and churches across the county. The program provides additional drop off days for the public as well as public outreach to schools and community members on the importance of recycling.
One of the most exciting experiences for Commissioner Glenn, however, has been her participation in the Delta Leadership Institute Executive Academy. Glenn describes her time with the Delta Leadership Institute as “influential on her life professionally and personally, giving me the opportunity to meet and learn from people all over the region.” She cites the group’s trip to New Orleans and case studies on emergency preparedness in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as a key takeaway from the experience. In her county’s own disasters since, Glenn explains “what I learned in New Orleans directly helped me work with FEMA and do my job as an elected county official.” Commissioner Glenn is an outstanding example of a Deltan utilizing the resources around her to build her community and improve the lives of her neighbors.
Delta Regional Authority Provides Emergency Funding to Keep Hickman Fulton Riverport Open
Courtesy of Amy Williamson
HICKMAN, KY – In response to the extreme drought hitting much of the country, Delta Regional Authority, along with federal stakeholders funded efforts to dredge the area around the Hickman and Fulton County Riverport to keep the port open and operating. Without the dredging, the port faced a minimum of a three to four week closure - a major threat to the economic and agricultural stability of the region. "This effort sends a clear signal to the region - we're open for business," said DRA Federal Co-Chairman Chris Masingill.
The Delta Regional Authority provided approximately $50,000 to launch the emergency dredging after working closely with Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear, U.S. Senator Rand Paul from Kentucky as well as U.S. Representatives Ed Whitfield from Kentucky and Jo Ann Emerson from Missouri. The riverport project was part of a larger dredging initiative being performed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Created in 1978, the Hickman Fulton County Riverport serves as the only public port on the east side of the Mississippi River in Kentucky. This port is located on the lower Mississippi at mile 922 in the Elvis J. Stahr Harbor, with no locks south of St. Louis, Missouri, creating a distinct advantage with regard to waterborne shipping costs. It is also located in the geographic center of a major grain producing area.
“Keeping this port operational is essential to the economy of western Kentucky, and I’m pleased to see they are moving forward with this dredging to keep it open," said U.S. Congressman Ed Whitfield. "The Hickman Harbor serves as a vital component of the agricultural and manufacturing industries in western Kentucky. Without access to the Harbor, farmers would not as easily be able to transport crops to their markets- resulting in decreased revenue. Additionally, manufacturers throughout western Kentucky depend on this harbor to ship their goods.”
Eastern Arkansas regional planning organization prepared to compete for business and economic development for region
FORREST CITY, AR—Crossroads Coalition recently received an important designation from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC) as a Regional Economic Development Partnership for Eastern Arkansas. The Coalition, which includes eight counties in the East Arkansas Delta, is one of two regional planning organizations in the state to receive this designation, along with the Northwest Arkansas Council in Springdale, AR.
As a Regional Economic Development Partnership, Crossroads Coalition will receive funding from AEDC to implement a comprehensive economic development marketing campaign for the region. Crossroads Coalition will additionally use the funding to launch a regional Business Retention & Expansion program and to host site tours for economic development consultants and prospective businesses. Federal Co-Chairman Chris Masingill served as the keynote speaker for event. “Economic Development happens on the local level. I believe in these types of regional partnerships that bring economic development to our Delta communities. Crossroads Coalition has proven their ability and commitment to Eastern Arkansas and to bringing economic development to the region,” Chairman Masingill said.
For more information, visit Crossroads Coalition’s website
Bypass provides much needed access to Poplar Bluff industrial park
POPLAR BLUFF, MO – On Thursday, August 2, Alternate Federal Co-Chairman Mike Marshall joined local leaders in celebrating the opening of a new bypass that will connect the Poplar Bluff industrial park to Highway 67. Previously, the only access for semi-trucks going to the industrial park was through residential neighborhoods and the commercial areas of downtown, causing major traffic, noise, and safety issues. The new bypass will also improve the marketability of the industrial park in the recruitment of future businesses to Poplar Bluff.
“This project has taken over a decade to implement from its first mention to the start of project construction – that is about the same time that the DRA has been around and we are so proud to be a part of seeing this idea realized today. Transportation infrastructure is imperative to creating jobs, building communities and improving the lives of those in the Delta. It’s about putting the Delta first for the future, and that is what we have done here today,” said Chairman Marshall.
Small Business Spotlight
Power Pro Performance founder and president, Ryan French (center), with employees.
Mechanic uses development resources and a flexible business model to grow ATV and trucking business
Originally founded as Power Pro 4x4 in 2009, Power Pro Performance is a truck service and ATV repair company based in Natchitoches, LA. President Ryan French started Power Pro with the goal to build an ATV service and parts business. Dedicated to making his idea a success, French reached out to the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at Northwestern State University, which provided him with market research to find the best location and model for his operation. In early 2010, he opened Power Pro 4x4 with both a showroom for parts and accessories and a shop for repair work. French explains that he always had mechanical skill and entrepreneurial aspirations but never knew how to get a business off the ground. “[The LSBDC] really guided me through the process of starting a business. I always knew I wanted to go into business for myself but I just didn’t know where to start,” he said.
French also used the resources of the LSBDC to analyze his profits and revenue streams which led him to expansion and redirection of his business. Recognizing that the ATV market was a niche, hard-to-recruit market, French used local networking to find a couple of jobs doing service work on semi-trailer trucks. Soon after landing his first corporate customer, a natural gas company that was working on the Haynesville shale project, he discovered that he could offer companies a more cost-effective solution by bringing his repair services out into the field. Unlike ATV customers, tractor-trailers were easy to access through trucking companies, whom he was able to reach through market analysis research from the LSBDC. “We just found a bigger market for it and endless jobs. With ATVs, you’re just waiting for someone to bring you work. It was never a problem finding work with trucks,” said French.
Despite an affinity to working with ATVs, French recognized the stability that working with the trucking industry brought and in fall of 2010, renamed his company Power Pro Performance. The company that was once a dream of French’s has grown to now offer 24-hour mechanic service for on-site repairs with four roadside trucks and five employees. The company now has annual sales of more than $350,000 and is expanding into other services such as welding and industrial power washing. French explains, “We now have our hands in quite a few things. We’ve just changed our business to go where the opportunities are.”
Access the Delta series continues to reach entrepreneurial communities
Matt Huber, of the Douglas C. Greene Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, presents at Access the Delta in Carbondale, IL
Delta Regional Authority continued the Access the Delta workshop series with four sessions in Hopkinsville, KY, Carbondale, IL, Poplar Bluff, MO, and Martin, TN. The workshops reached more than 100 small business owners and entrepreneurs interested in local resources and lending options for developing and growing small businesses. Many thanks are due to the various speakers in each state from USDA Rural Development, US Small Business Administration, local SBDC offices, local participating lenders, and the Douglas C. Greene Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
Former Congressman Berry’s legacy honored with new college research center
WEST MEMPHIS, AR – Mid-South Community College has dedicated their newest building to former Congressman Marion Berry, praising his seven terms of service to the 1st congressional district of Eastern Arkansas. The Marion Berry Renewable Energy Center, a $9.5 million facility that will house laboratories for students of transportation, agriculture, and heavy construction fields, will serve as a research center analyzing biofuels and the effects of biofuels on the trucks using them.
“Congressman Berry's commitment to Rural America has inspired my commitment to Rural America. This building is a statement to his legacy of dedication to this region and belief in the potential of its people,” Delta Regional Authority Federal Co-Chairman Chris Masingill said.