Chairman’s Briefing: Supporting the Delta’s Entrepreneurs

October 19, 2016

When I was sworn in as the Federal Co-Chairman of the Delta Regional Authority in 2010, our country – and our people and communities – were living through the worst financial crisis we had seen since the Great Depression.

That’s why I made it one of my top priorities to support an ecosystem of self-dependence in the Delta region. I wanted to help create local jobs that couldn’t be outsourced, support businesses that would invest in our Main Streets and people, and help develop industries and companies that would lead the new economy.

For me, achieving that priority meant identifying and supporting Delta entrepreneurs and small business owners.

Small business owners are the backbone and lifeblood of our economy. When they create jobs, it means new jobs in our communities. And when they invest in their companies, it means new investments on our Main Streets.

The Delta has a lot to offer these budding entrepreneurs. Think about it: our part of the world has affordable land, low taxes, ample natural resources and access to waterways and highways – all of which are essential competitive advantages to growing a business.

But we need to do a better job investing in the Delta’s entrepreneurial support network. What is that exactly? It means identifying and connecting start-ups with mentors who are willing and excited to give back to other entrepreneurs. It means developing a network of entrepreneurs who can learn from the experiences of others and benefit from their mistakes as well as their successes. And it means connecting small business owners with the technical experts they will need to achieve their goals.

Business leaders may be experts in their field. They may know how to manufacture parts, print signs, and cook meals better than their competitors. But do they know how to access capital? Or meet government regulations? Or file necessary accounting forms?

These can be daunting tasks for businesses new and old.

Today, I am proud that we have made major strides when it comes to creating and expanding the Delta’s entrepreneurial support ecosystem.

Delta Regional Authority has invested in this priority – directing $9.4 million to small business and entrepreneurship support initiatives.  Our funds leveraged with public and private dollars represents an investment of $25.7 million.

Just last month we kicked off our 3rd Annual Delta Challenge – a series of pitch competitions where local entrepreneurs and small business owners not only pitch their ideas and compete for a chance to be a Delta Entrepreneurship Network fellow, but also connect with one another. 

The winners of these competitions receive professional feedback on their business plans, help with their pitch presentations, as well as other technical training.

They also receive the opportunity to participate in special programming and competitions during New Orleans Entrepreneur Week (NOEW) in March 2017.

Since we launched the Delta Challenge, we’ve seen entrepreneurs and small businesses come together and share ideas and resources.

Specifically, the DRA has led 16 pitch competitions across the region, with a special emphasis on encouraging rural entrepreneurs to present their ideas. More than 50 entrepreneurs and entrepreneur support organizations have participated in the DEN Fellowship and NOEW.

That means we have created an entire network of leaders who are all committed to making our region’s economic future stronger than it is today – new start up by new start up.

I want to encourage all Delta entrepreneurs to come out and compete (schedule provided below and available at

The Delta Challenge is also hosting a resource fair, offering local business owners additional resources and networking opportunities. A schedule of these events is provided below:

November 1, 2016           Ruston, LA                         Louisiana Tech University

November 18, 2016         Cape Girardeau, MO         Codefi

By participating in these pitch competitions, our people are planting and growing the seeds of entrepreneurism across our region. And all of us stand to reap the economic fruit.

Our country and our people faced enormous challenges when I began to serve as Co-Chairman of the DRA. But our people are doing what they do best – digging a little deeper and working a little harder.

Today I am confident that the future of our people and our region is strong because of our collective commitment to our small businesses and entrepreneurs and ultimately our region.


Chris Masingill