NEWS: ACT and DRA Announce Partnership Designed to Boost Workforce, Sustain Economic Growth

March 11, 2015

CLARKSDALE, Miss. and IOWA CITY, Iowa— The Delta Regional Authority (DRA) has initiated a partnership with Iowa-based nonprofit ACT to help DRA counties and parishes create the infrastructure and policies that support local workforce development and training systems through a region-specific version of the ACT Work Ready Communities Academy.

Consistent with its mission to improve regional economic opportunity in the eight-state region surrounding the Mississippi River Delta and Alabama Black Belt regions, the partnership will help local leadership move their counties and parishes toward certification as ACT Work Ready Communities. Currently only six counties and parishes of the 252 in the DRA footprint hold the certification.

“The most important asset to a community in attracting business investment and creating jobs is having a skilled and trained workforce,” DRA Federal Co-Chairman Chris Masingill said. “The DRA’s Reimagining the Delta Workforce initiative is focused on connecting Delta communities to the resources, relationships, and infrastructure they need to build regional pipelines of skilled workers. The ACT Work Ready Communities initiative is a logical partner with the DRA in empowering our communities’ leaders to certify their workforce and bring economic opportunities to the Delta region.”

Regions and communities that received funding under the Reimagining the Delta Workforce initiative were invited to participate in a Delta region-specific series of workshops that are part of the ACT Work Ready Community Academy, hosted by ACT. The first session of the ACT Delta Academy was held March 4 and 5, 2015, in New Orleans. Academy sessions are designed for county or state leaders who are committed to helping their communities achieve certification as ACT Work Ready Communities through initiating, deploying, and driving carefully tailored, coordinated efforts to quantify an area’s workforce quality based on specific goals and measurable data.

Community officials and educational leadership from the following counties/parishes (and partner organizations) in the DRA region are participating in the ACT Delta Academy:

Alabama: Sumter (Shelton State Community College, Sumter County Chamber of Commerce, and University of West Alabama)

Arkansas: Craighead, Cross, Mississippi, Phillips, and Randolph (East Arkansas Planning and Development District)

Louisiana: Avoyelles, Catahoula, Concordia, Grant, LaSalle, Natchitoches, Rapides, and Winn (Central Louisiana Economic Development Alliance, Central Louisiana Technical Community College, Concordia Parish Chamber of Commerce, Concordia Economic & Industrial Development District, LaSalle Economic Development District, Natchitoches Area Chamber of Commerce, and The Orchard Foundation)

Mississippi: Adams, Bolivar, Coahoma, Leflore, Panola, Sunflower, Washington, and Yazoo (Alcorn State University, Cleveland-Bolivar County Chamber, Copiah-Lincoln Community College, Delta Council, Natchez-Adams School District, Sunflower County Economic Development District, and Washington County Economic Development District)

Tennessee: Benton, Carroll, Crockett, Dyer, Gibson, Haywood, Henry, Lake, Lauderdale, Obion, Tipton, and Weakley

The ACT Work Ready Communities initiative is intended to help communities link education and workforce development, certify the skill levels of the local workforce, and respond to the needs of employers by helping to match qualified individuals with available jobs. The Academy consists of four sessions and is the second step of what ACT defines as a five-step process toward attaining a fully sustainable workforce development ecosystem. Once community leadership completes the Academy, the community then moves on to the third step: certification by ACT. The fourth and fifth steps involve maintaining and sustaining the established infrastructure and policies to continue certification. Certified ACT Work Ready Communities are regarded as the optimal places for businesses to locate or expand.

“The nationwide momentum we’ve already established for the ACT Work Ready Communities initiative will be strengthened by this partnership with the Delta Regional Authority,” said Debra Lyons, ACT vice president for community and economic development “We share the same purpose--supporting job creation and economic development--so this is a logical fit. We were pleased to welcome the participating counties and parishes to our event in New Orleans and were honored that Chairman Masingill was in attendance to kick things off on March 4.”

At the core of the ACT Work Ready Communities initiative is the ACT National Career Readiness Certificate® (ACT NCRC®). This nationally recognized and portable credential is based on three essential workplace skill categories: applied math, reading for information, and locating information. Since January 2006, more than 2.75 million Americans have earned an ACT NCRC.

The ACT NCRC helps assure employers that the people they hire and promote have the skills necessary to succeed. Counties that have sustainable, ongoing certification efforts are attractive to employers in terms of economic development. Of the DRA-region counties and parishes participating in academy workshops, two parishes in Louisiana--Avoyelles and Rapides--are already certified as ACT Work Ready Communities. The DRA-ACT partnership seeks to increase the number of counties and parishes in the DRA region with a skilled workforce prepared to attract and retain jobs through new business investment and expansion.

About ACT

ACT is a mission-driven, nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people achieve education and workplace success. Headquartered in Iowa City, Iowa, ACT is trusted as the nation’s leader in college and career readiness, providing high-quality achievement assessments grounded in more than 50 years of research and experience. ACT offers a uniquely integrated set of solutions that help people succeed from elementary school through career, providing insights that unlock potential. To learn more about ACT, go to

About the Delta Regional Authority

The Delta Regional Authority is a federal-state partnership that is congressionally mandated to help create jobs, build communities, and improve lives through strategic investments in economic development in the 252 counties and parishes of the Delta region. Through the past thirteen investment cycles of the DRA’s States Economic Development Assistance Program, DRA investments have leveraged $2.7 billion in other public and private investment into DRA projects that are helping to create and retain 42,000 jobs, train 13,000 for a 21st century workforce, and provide more than 82,000 families access to clean water and sewer services. To learn more about the DRA, visit


Spencer Lucker
(202) 434-4842

Katie Wacker, ACT Public Relations
(319) 337-1013