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October 2, 2003

News Announcements from the Mississippi Delta Regional Conference

Little Rock, AR (October 3, 2003)-- Key partners of the Mississippi Delta Regional Conference, Fall, 2003, announce a series of initiatives for economic development, internet access, health care, and other projects for promoting the prosperity and improving the quality of life for the seven-state, 219-county region that is the heart of America. The hosts of the October 2-3 conference are President Les Wyatt of Arkansas State University, President James Cofer of the University of Louisiana at Monroe, Little Rock Mayor Jim Dailey, and the Honorable Rodney Slater. (Individual releases are available providing detail on each announcement.)

Foundation for the Mid-South announces $430,000 for the next round of funding in its Individual Development Account project for aiding low-income people develop assets for starting new businesses, a home, education, or other long-term goals. When the participants reach a certain savings goal with the help of financial management training, the program matches their savings at rates ranging from 1:1 to 5:1. The Foundation for the Mid-South is a major regional nonprofit foundation operating in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, with headquarters in Jackson, Mississippi.

Entergy Corp. announces that the Business Linc program is adding a new chapter in Tallulah, La. Business Linc provides mentors who are large corporations or established businesses who provide technical assistance and share their experience with small, emerging businesses. Entergy and Moses Williams, President of the Northeast Louisiana Delta CDC, lead entity for the Northeast Louisiana Delta Enterprise Community in the Tallulah area, concluded this agreement. The Enterprise Corporation of the Delta is also one of the key partners in this program, which has many affiliates throughout the region.

Enterprise Corporation of the Delta invests $250,000 to fund an expansion of its "AIR2LAN" program for creating access to affordable high-speed internet service to people in the Delta who have not had it previously. This is part of plans to expand it farther into Arkansas, and later on, in some communities in Louisiana. It already exists in several communities in Mississippi. Enterprise Corporation of the Delta is a major nonprofit foundation operating in Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi, with headquarters in Jackson, Mississippi.

A milestone has been achieved in the flood control project in the area around the East Prairie Missouri Enterprise Community-they have met the requirements for the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Dr. Martha Ellen Black, Executive Director of the Enterprise Community is a speaker at the conference and emphasizes the great value of the program for preventing the flooding that has historically plagued the area's residents. Many of the victims have historically been poor people, many of them African Americans, and the NAACP has been one of the supporters of the project, which has been years in the making. Dr. Black is one of the key leaders of the Southern EZ/EC Forum, a coalition of all Enterprise Communities and Empowerment Zones in the Delta region and a dynamic supporter of regional cooperation and alliances.

Enterprise Corporation of the Delta touts the Alpha Creek housing project in Tunica, Mississippi, as a model to be replicated throughout the region. Families have now started moving in to this project, which enables low-income people to work relatively close to home, with assistance from First Security Bank of Tunica regarding mortgage applications and credit reports, as well as funding from the Mississippi Development Authority.

The Delta nutrition initiative is making progress in its Nutrition Intervention Research Initiative, which promotes health education, fitness and better access to nutritious produce in several areas in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. The initiative has succeeded in obtaining grassroots participation in its efforts to promote better nutrition in the Delta, where nutrition-related diseases such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and others are a major problem. Participants in the conference include Dr. Margaret Bogle, executive director of the entire regional initiative; Helen Perkins, Chair of the Hollandale, Mississippi local chapter; and Dr. Betty Kennedy of the Pennington medical research center in Baton Rouge, who heads up the "Rolling Store" project for getting fresh access to underserved people in rural areas. There is $50,000 in new funding to two of the local areas, with several hundred thousands of dollars coming on later as the program continues to proceed, focuses on areas in Phillips County, Arkansas; the Hollandale, Mississippi area; and Franklin Parish in Louisiana, for health education and fitness activities. The initiative is a collaborative project of Southern University, Alcorn State University, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Arkansas Children's Hospital Research Institute, and the Agricultural Research Service. Helen Perkins is a speaker at the conference, while Dr. Bogle and Dr. Kennedy are available to elaborate on their program to the media.

Delta Southern Bank donated a building to provide a new town hall in Lula, Mississippi, and a $33,000 grant for the revitalization of the downtown area in Drew, Mississippi. Delta Southern Bank is a community development financial institution (CDFI) based in Ruleville, Mississippi. The funds for Drew will be used to renovate two vacant buildings in the downtown area in an effort to attract new business to the area. Delta Southern is a subsidiary of Southern Development Bancorporation, a $420 million banking organization.

First National Bank of Phillips County and its parent company, Southern Development Bancorporation, provided a $200,000 grant to the City of Helena, Arkansas to begin a comprehensive process of cleanup and beautification. The goals include replacing blighted housing with new homes and renovating the community's infrastructure.

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