DRA Round-up: October 2012
DRA hosts Summit to promote universal broadband access in Rural America, announces pilot program for Region
MEMPHIS – In the first gathering of its kind in the region, the Delta Regional Authority assembled telecommunications professionals, state advocacy organizations, and community leaders to discuss strategies for achieving universal broadband access throughout the Delta region as well as learn about the federal broadband funding available to communities and states. Broadband connectivity organizations from each of the eight Delta states were on hand to share policies and programs that their respective state is implementing as well as learn from what others are doing to increase access and adoption of broadband internet in unserved and underserved areas of the Delta.
The Summit also provided the opportunity for Connect2Compete, a national non-profit organization dedicated to narrowing the digital divide, to announce a pilot program in partnership with DRA that will provide reduced-cost Internet service, affordable computers, and free digital literacy training to students in 45 schools in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. “Once considered a luxury, owning a computer and an Internet connection have become absolutely essential to getting a job, succeeding in school, and participating in today’s society,” said C2C CEO Zach Leverenz.
Panels also discussed the impact of broadband access on education and the creation of jobs in the region. Some of the most important applications of broadband connectivity are in telecommuting, which increases student access to higher education opportunities, and telehealth, a system that allows physicians and hospitals to serve patients throughout rural areas, decreasing barriers to necessary health access. Each of these broadband applications serves the ultimate goal of strengthening local and regional economies and creating jobs for people in the Delta.
Many thanks are due to ConnectArkansas for helping organize the Broadband Summit as well as to each of the participating state broadband organizations: ConnectingAlabama, Broadband Illinois, Kentucky Broadband Outreach and Development, Louisiana Broadband Initiative, Broadband for Mississippi, MO Broadband Now, and Conected Tennessee.
For more information about Connect2Compete, visit their website
Louisiana: Proud yet humble Tensas Parish leader merges business and civic skills to promote commerce and tourism
You won’t find many people more proud of their home than Jane Netterville. A lifelong resident of beautiful Lake Bruin, an oxbow lake just west of the Mississippi River with “a beautiful cypress setting”, Netterville does all that she can, even in brief greetings, to convince people it’s the perfect place to live, vacation, or simply relax. As a real estate agent by profession, she has spent many years working with the vast properties around the lake and realizing the needs of the region in order to be an attractive locale.
Determined to bring needed infrastructure development to her home, Netterville ran for and was elected to the Tensas Parish Police Jury, on which she was the first woman to serve and was later chosen by her fellow jurors as Tensas Parish President. Netterville explains, “I was always encouraging others to run for office, to start their own business or marina, to transform our community. Finally, I decided ‘I’m going to do it myself.’”
Joined by four other “rookie” jurors, the Police Jury began a capital campaign to build a sheriff’s office, which was previously housed in a single-wide trailer, and restore their parish courthouse. Fueled by the community’s strong support and efforts by invested leaders, the Tensas Parish courthouse now is restored to its original construction and is a gem for cultural and historic enthusiasts. The Parish has also acquired the necessary funds to build a new home for the Sheriff’s office.
Under Netterville’s leadership the Parish also saw development of a community center for the area to house special events, receptions, and weddings and an agricultural arena that hosts regional horse shows, rodeos, and livestock auctions.
Since her elected service to her parish, Netterville has continued her humble commitment to growing her community. She is now the owner of a full-service marina and retreat on Lake Bruin, providing a much-needed service that has not only increased the activity and investment on the lake but also encouraged others to open small businesses and rent cabins in the area, attracting visitors and homebuyers from all over the country. “We have an asset in our own backyard, and it’s time we take advantage of it to improve lives in this poverty-stricken rural area.”
Delta Regional Authority proudly recognizes each month a community leader who has dedicated his or her life's work to serving the Delta region and inspiring lasting change throughout their community, state, and nation.
DRA Salutes Governors, Small Buiness Owners, Economic Developers in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee
Four Delta states have been recognized in the top 10 of Area Development's 2012 "Top States for Doing Business" ranking, as identified by more than 200 local consultants. The list highlights states that are among the nation’s leaders in at least 8 of the 14 categories surveyed, including overall business environment, labor climate, and infrastructure and global access.
Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Mississippi were ranked fourth, sixth, seventh, and ninth, respectively, in the list. Each of the four states was recognized in last year’s ranking as well. Alabama is considered the leading state in competitive labor costs, while Louisiana is recognized for its state government policies towards corporate entities. Tennessee is touted as having the best overall infrastructure and access to global markets in the country, with emphasis on its status as a distribution and logistics hub for the region. Mississippi ranks highly in its competitive rates for utilities and labor.
"'Top States for Doing Business' is exactly the kind of sign we want hanging on the region's front door,” Chairman Masingill said. “We know that when you bring the ideas and work ethic of our people together with passionate leadership, you have a recipe for success. Our small business owners and entrepreneurs as well as economic development leaders and Governors deserve the credit for this. I congratulate them for this recognition - and promise them that we will continue to meet their hard work in kind."
Other states in the Delta also were ranked in specific categories. Illinois, Kentucky, and Missouri were recognized for state infrastructure and accessibility that strongly supports business growth. Arkansas is considered to have some of the most competitive labor costs in the country.
To see a full list of the winning states, visit Area Development Online.
Senator Landrieu hosts summit on business incubators in Louisiana
With the vision of jumpstarting small business and entrepreneurship in Louisiana, Senator Mary Landrieu gathered national and state officials to discuss the resources available to small businesses and entrepreneurs in the state as well as best practices for regional and municipal business accelerators and incubators. The summit featured representatives of successful business group Cambridge Innovation Center, of Boston, Massachusetts, and Jumpstart America, of Cleveland, Ohio, who presented on each incubator’s successful strategies for supporting entrepreneurship and start-up technology.
DRA Chairman Chris Masingill joined Kathy Dedrick, of US Economic Development Administration, and Clarence Hawkins, State Director of USDA Rural Development, on a panel discussing federal programs that can help start and support incubators and accelerators in local communities. “You have to have a nurturing environment for those kinds of businesses and very good strategies and partnerships between the public and private sectors to do that,” Senator Landrieu said.
The Delta Regional Authority is currently supporting a partnership between WinRock International Institute for Agricultural Development and Louisiana Tech University that plans to pool each institution’s resources to stimulate new economic activity and quality job growth in counties of southern Arkansas and northern Louisiana along the I-20 corridor.
Small Business Spotlight
Tennessee: Local bike shop combines skills and passion to promote cycling and healthy living in Jackson
Many entrepreneurs get their start in a field other than business. For the owners of Hub City Bicycle, starting a business came from their desire to help their community of Jackson, TN. Approached with the idea of opening a bike retail and repair shop, Justin Wren jumped on the opportunity with a long-time friend, Adrian Parchman. Both avid cyclists, Justin is a trauma nurse who recognized the need for a bike shop that focused on the fit of bikes for the rider in order to avoid injuries; Adrian has a history as a bicycle technician. Together they sought to open a bike shop of certified bike fitters, focusing on more than simply selling a product. As Wren explains, “If the bike doesn’t fit you, we won’t sell it to you. It’s about safety and comfort.”
After many hours of developing a business plan and working with the local Small Business Development Center in Jackson to fine tune the plan, Wren acquired private funding backed by the US Small Business Administration and opened Hub City Bicycle in March of 2011. Wren credits his counselors at the TN SBDC for their expert advising in numerous areas of business: banking, finance, and business development. And over the past 18 months, Hub City Bicycle has met sales projections and hired on another full-time employee.
In opening Hub City Bicycle, Wren and Parchman wanted to fill the void in their community of a bike shop that promoted cycling as a sport and avenue towards a healthier lifestyle for West Tennesseans. Hub City Bicycle is the proud sponsor of numerous 5K races and outdoor activity events at local schools and in the communities and counties surrounding Jackson. They have also started a race team that will ride to raise awareness of childhood and adult obesity and promote effective ways of living a healthy, active lifestyle. Hub City Bicycle is a great example of small business giving back to the community and changing lives.
For more information, visit Hub City Bicycle's website.
Every month the Delta Regional Authority recognizes a small business in our region that demonstrates a commitment to growing the entrepreneurial environment of the Delta and contributing to its local economy, bringing new ideas and services to our communities.
SEDAP Project Highlight
Alabama: Infrastructure projects assist state in attracting investment in manufacturing sector
Over the past year, the manufacturing sector has been a strong driver of economic growth in Alabama. Supported by investments in space and technology in southern Alabama and large automotive operations throughout the state, manufacturing is growing and attracting companies from around the world to Alabama. In order to attract these investments, the local and state authorities must improve the surrounding infrastructure, enabling companies to optimize their success in the region.
The same held true when Lakeside Steel LLC, a Canadian-based steel manufacturer decided to locate a pipe-making facility in Thomasville, AL. To facilitate product transport from its factory Lakeside Steel needed access to the nearest railroad, calling on the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs to facilitate the building of the needed infrastructure. DRA supported the construction of the rail spur through a $500,000 award through SEDAP to purchase the necessary land, with ADECA contributing the remaining $500,000 for construction. Thanks to this partnership, Lakeside Steel Alabama has been open for operations since Spring 2012 providing 120 local residents with a well-paying job. DRA and state investments in infrastructure prove vital for the economic development of our rural communities.
Each month the Delta Regional Authority highlights one of the projects funded by DRA's States' Economic Development Assistance Program, which in nine funding cycles has created over 9,000 jobs, leveraged $1.5 billion in private investment, and helped 25,000 families gain access to clean water and sewer service.
Delta Leadership Institute welcomes eighth class of regional leaders
ST. LOUIS - The Delta Leadership Institute has begun its eighth Executive Academy, welcoming 49 community leaders from the eight states of the Delta region into the seven-month leadership training program. Participants are chosen by their respective governor and Federal Co-Chairman Chris Masingill to join a diverse group of community leaders in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors. The Executive Academy program consists of five training sessions in cities across the region that equip participants with the skills and resources necessary to improve decisions made by local leaders and find effective solutions to address the problems of our region.
The first session of the program was held in St. Louis, MO, and served as an introduction to the Delta Regional Authority and the major issues that affect the lives of people in the Delta region. Participants also met with regional economists and the US Army Corps of Engineers. In future sessions, the curriculum will include case studies and activities tackling the region's biggest problems. The DLI Executive Academy is coordinated by the University of Alabama College of Continuing Studies. The second session will be held in December in New Orleans.
NADO names new Executive Director
We are excited to join with our close agency partners, the National Association for Development Organizations, in welcoming their new Executive Director, Joe McKinney.
McKinney has twenty-one years of experience in local and regional government, having served in city, county, and regional government management since 1991. He served as Executive Director of Land-of-Sky Regional Council since January 2003. Under his leadership, Land-of-Sky has been recognized nationally for its innovation and program expansion in areas such as planning and economic development, workforce development, transportation and transit, aging services, volunteer services, and geographic information systems.
NADO provides legislative support for DRA as well as partnering on numerous programs that provide resources and capacity building for the local development districts in the Delta region. "NADO is an important partner in our mission to create jobs and build communities in the Delta region. We are excited to welcome Mr. McKinney to our partnership and look forward to future collaboration in improving the lives of people in the Delta," Chairman Masingill said.USDA hosts one of four discussions on drought in Delta region
PINE BLUFF, AR - USDA has partnered with EDA, FEMA, and DRA to host four Drought listening sessions throughout the country. The purpose of these forums is to gather solutions to the problems caused by the current drought that has had a disastrous impact on a large portion of the country. One of the sessions was held in Pine Bluff, AR, to assess drought impact and federal response in the Delta region.
The forum was attended by approximately 70 farmers, community leaders, economic developers, and state officials, who were given the opportunity to voice concerns with drought impacts in areas of agriculture, forestry, livestock and poultry, and community economic development.
Chairman Masingill said,
“Despite subsiding drought conditions, the impacts of the drought are far-reaching in our region. It is important that we continue to support our farmers, small business owners, and communities in the wake of this disaster.”Pathways to Prosperity Conference emphasizes partnerships in workforce development
JACKSON, MS –The National Network of Sector Partners recently hosted a conference entitled Pathways to Prosperity: Sector Initiatives in the Mid-South, which gathered local and regional leaders from Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee, to share workforce development strategies and key policies and practices in workforce training. The program emphasized the role of sector partnerships and initiatives, which bring together public education institutions and private industry to build a highly skilled and trained workforce as well as create jobs for the region.
DRA Federal Co-Chairman Chris Masingill joined Jack Mills, Director of NNSP, and John Lotshaw, Chairman of the National Maritime Education Consortium, in outlining the impact that sector initiatives can have on both the workforce and individual businesses that join these partnerships. “When private businesses and public institutions work together to train our communities, everyone wins,” Chairman Masingill said. DRA welcomes new board alternate, staff member
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley has named Jimmy Lester
as his alternate to the Delta Regional Authority Board. Prior to serving in this capacity, Lester was a Special Projects Coordinator with the Workforce Development division of the Workforce Initiatives Section for the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs. As a Regional and State Program Manager for the Alabama Community Partnership for Recovery and Reentry (CPR Network), Lester worked with federal, state, and local governmental agencies, faith and community based groups, and individuals in developing a network of services for offenders as they transition from correctional facilities back to their communities. A native of Glenwood, AL, Lester graduated from the University of Alabama with a B.S. in General Business Management and has over 30 years of experience in business management, banking, finance, and economic and community development.
"Jimmy Lester's entire career has revolved around community development. His experience with workforce development and other programs at ADECA, combined with his prior leadership of a rural county industrial development authority, have equipped Jimmy with valuable skills and insight that will greatly benefit Alabama's DRA counties," said Jim Byard, Jr., Director of ADECA.
Emanuel E. Edmond
this month joined the Delta Regional Authority staff as SEDAP Program Manager. Working directly with our Project Management team, Edmond will oversee the application, award, and funding implementation processes of the States' Economic Development Assistance Program. Edmond is a resident of Greenville, Mississippi, and a proud graduate of Delta State University. He has previously served the Mississippi Delta as a Project Facilitator and Special Grants Coordinator for Delta Health Alliance. We are excited to welcome Emanuel to our team.Delta Grassroots Caucus gathers regional leaders for fall conference
The Mississippi Delta Grassroots Caucus hosted its fall conference at Mid-South Community College in West Memphis, AR to discuss the current state of the Delta and strategies for future economic and community development. DRA Alternate Federal Co-Chairman Mike Marshall addressed the Caucus outlining the importance of a successful and supportive small business and entrepreneurship environment in the Delta. He was joined in the opening session by a respected list of cultural and community leaders from the Delta, including Congressman Mike Ross for his final address to the DGC representing the Delta in Congress. Chairman Masingill also spoke during the main session, identifying key opportunities for the future of the Delta, emphasizing those that universal broadband access can bring to the region. Delta Leadership Network to Host Conference in the Spring
The Delta Leadership Network has postponed its fall conference and will host its first conference in April 2013. Tentatively, the event will be on or around April 16-18 in conjunction with the Delta Leadership Institute's fourth session in Memphis, TN.LOOKING AHEAD: November 11, 2012
Veteran's DayNovember 14-15, 2012
JAG Board Luncheon
Washington, DCNovember 15, 2012
National Rural Health DayNovember 22, 2012
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Board of Governors
Governor Jay Nixon - Missouri
Mr. Bill Ransdall - Designee
Dr. Jon Hagler - Alternate
State of Alabama
Governor Robert Bentley
Mr. Jim Byard - Designee
Mr. Jimmy Lester - Alternate
State of Arkansas
Governor Mike Beebe
Mr. Steve Jones - Designee & Alternate
State of Illinois
Governor Pat Quinn
Mr. David Vaught- Designee & Alternate
Commonwealth of Kentucky
Governor Steve Beshear
Mr. Tony Wilder - Designee & Alternate
State of Louisiana
Governor Bobby Jindal
Mr. Doyle Robinson - Designee
Mr. Matt Parker - Alternate
State of Mississippi
Governor Phil Bryant
Mr. Chris Champion - Designee & Alternate
State of Tennessee
Governor Bill Haslem
Mr. Allen Borden - Designee
Ms. Brooxie Carlton - Alternate
Delta Regional Authority
236 Sharkey Avenue -
Clarksdale, MS 38614