Chairman’s Briefing: 2015 Year in Review

March 02, 2016

We often talk about the three main goals of the Delta Regional Authority as being to help create jobs, build communities, and improve lives. I can proudly say that, again, in 2015, the DRA did just that.

At our annual Governors Quorum meeting this past month in Washington, DC, I was given the opportunity to update our board members and the governors of our states on the work the Delta Regional Authority and its staff has done this past year. They were enthusiastic about the outcomes and impact we are achieving for Delta communities.

As we continue to work together to move the Delta region forward, I want to highlight some of the achievements of the past year–outlined in our 2015 Year in Review–and what we will be working on in the coming year to advance our goals for the Delta region.

Creating Jobs.

Having a skilled, trained workforce is essential to attracting jobs to our states. The ACT Work Ready Communities initiative allows businesses to see which communities have the skilled workforce needed to fill the jobs they may have. So far, there are 80 counties and parishes across 7 of the 8 DRA states participating in this effort. Fifteen communities went through the ACT Work Ready Academy in 2015, and 16 counties and parishes have been certified as Work Ready Communities, sending a clear message that these Delta communities have the skilled workers necessary for businesses to succeed and grow in the Delta.

To ensure that the small businesses and entrepreneurs that are the backbone of our economy continue to create jobs for Delta residents, the Delta Entrepreneurship Network was launched and has now welcomed its second class of DEN fellows with 22 entrepreneur fellows and 13 entrepreneurship support organizations. These fellows are receiving more than $32,000 worth of technical assistance and will be participating and competing in New Orleans Entrepreneur Week this month, which attracts more than 10,000 investors, entrepreneurs, and the public to learn about current innovations and startups in New Orleans.

Building Communities.

DRA’s main investment tool, the States’ Economic Development Assistance Program, had another strong year of investments into community-based and regional projects that improve and strengthen the infrastructure and viability of Delta communities and families. With a new evaluation system that focuses on regional impact, multiple funding partners, and job creation, SEDAP invested more than $9.5 million into 64 local and statewide projects, leveraging an impressive $400 million in additional public and private investments that project to create and retain more than 3,500 jobs. These investments are part of the nearly $140 million DRA has invested in Delta communities since 2002, attracting nearly $3 billion in other public and private investments that have created and retained 26,000 jobs.

Through our Delta Leadership Institute, we continue to build the capacity of local and regional leaders to share and implement innovative solutions for our region’s challenges. This year, DLI graduated 52 fellows who will join the now-450-strong Delta Leadership Network across the entire region as part of the Delta Leadership Network, which provides continued professional development through partnerships like with the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and an annual conference.

And we are empowering our communities’ leaders to build more resilient communities through the Leading Economically Competitive and Resilient Communities workshop series. DRA has partnered with the International Economic Development Council to host 32 workshops across the region to train local elected officials to better prepare their communities for recovery from economic and natural disasters.

Improving Lives.

Partnering with the military to train our men and women in uniform while also bringing basic medical care to Delta residents is an extremely meaningful way for DRA to improve the lives of our neighbors. We continued our partnership with the military hosting three Innovative Readiness Training missions in nine communities this past summer to provide 15,000 with basic medical, dental, and optical care. Over now seven years, we have reached 65,000 patients!

Finally, DRA continues, as it has since 2002, to address the region’s shortage of healthcare providers with the Delta Doctors program, which connects foreign physicians with Delta communities in need of healthcare professionals. This past year, DRA placed a record 101 doctors across all 8 states, now placing more than 400 doctors.

Moving Forward.

As you can see, DRA has had a big year, but we have even bigger plans and a clear vision for the future. Over the past year, DRA updated its 2008 strategic plan, into the Regional Development Plan III. This process was extremely interactive, as our stakeholders and partners gave their input through in-person listening forums in each state, online webinars, and online surveys. We listened to the ideas and insights of our partners and stakeholders to craft an inclusive vision and objectives for the next five years.

In addition to growing the programs already mentioned, DRA is expanding its reach into other areas that will benefit workers, families, small businesses, economic developers, and community leaders, by promoting smart growth in the Delta region.

In recognition of the need for better and more directed research in the economic, cultural, and social challenges, successes, and opportunities of Delta communities, DRA is working with four-year colleges and universities throughout the region to develop the Delta Research Consortium. The consortium will utilize the shared capacity of institutions for their research and innovations across sectors to be a central hub of information on the Delta that practitioners, government officials, and community leaders can use for future policy development and decision-making.

DRA also recognizes that the creative economy and tourism are some of the best opportunities for economic development for our rural communities. Tourism as economic development takes many forms and can be utilized in different ways by different communities, based on a particular community’s assets. The DRA will be increasing its investments in meaningful infrastructure and workforce projects, raising awareness, and participating in cultural events around the region, as well as partnering with international brands to promote the cultural assets of the Delta.

I look forward to another year of working with our community leaders, workers, small business owners, and economic developers to advance our goals of helping to create jobs, build communities, and improve lives, while staying focused on our vision for a region where people and businesses have access to economic opportunities in their own vibrant, sustainable, and resilient communities within the Delta region.

Many thanks to our governors, board members, and staff for their hard work in maximizing our impact and ability to improve the Delta region for all. And a special thank you to each of you that are committed to making your community a great place to live, work, and achieve economic success.

Chris Masingill
Federal Co-Chairman
Delta Regional Authority

P.S. Check out our 2015 Year in Review publication online for the full list of accomplishments!