NEWS: DRA partners with Mississippi mayors to support infrastructure improvements in Delta

October 30, 2015

CLARKSDALE, Miss. – The Delta Regional Authority is partnering with the Mississippi Conference of Black Mayors to provide technical assistance to MCBM members for identifying and obtaining funding opportunities for local infrastructure needs—DRA Federal Co-Chairman Chris Masingill and MCBM Executive Director Silbrina Wright announced today.

Many major infrastructure needs throughout the region’s communities are related to water and sewer systems. The Connecting Our Communities to Opportunities (COCO) program will provide critical one-on-one technical assistance training for mayors and staff to successfully locate and manage funds to repair and update these systems. 71 of the 88 members of MCBM represent communities that fall within the DRA footprint. A recent study of those mayors estimates that $2 billion is needed to adequately repair and update the water and sewer infrastructure in these cities and towns.

 “We know that strong leadership and clean and safe water and sewer systems are critical to economic growth in the Delta,” Chairman Masingill said. “These mayors represent areas with some of the greatest needs in the state, especially when it comes to infrastructure. This program will help mayors understand available funding streams and have a better shot at attracting much-needed investments in local water and sewer systems in the Delta.”

DRA is investing $175,000 into COCO, which will be housed at and coordinated by MCBM. The much-needed technical assistance programs will help MCBM mayors understand, access, obtain, and ultimately manage regional, state, and federal investment programs available to finance local water and wastewater infrastructure.

"We are very grateful to DRA and our many partners like Congressman Bennie Thompson, Congressman Steven Palazzo, Senator Thad Cochran, Mississippi Urban Research Center of Jackson State University, Carl Small Town Center of Mississippi State University, and USDA State Director Trina George for providing the initial funding to our COCO Program,” said Silbrina Wright, Executive Director of MCBM. "Through the COCO Program we will continue to build on these relationships and foster peer-to-peer sharing of lessons learned, collaborative problem solving, and partnership building between our member mayors. Because mayors from every county in Mississippi are represented at the MCBM, and because we have brought these leaders together from across the state to identify common priorities, this new program offers a regionally-coordinated approach to economic development." 

Through COCO, local leaders will assess the status of their existing systems, determine whether there is any potential for collaboration with neighboring communities or the county to consolidate or create a regional system, locate the appropriate funding sources for the necessary next step (feasibility study, financial study, environmental study, engineering planning, or construction), assist the community in applying for the appropriate funding source, and, if necessary, provide the community with the appropriate tools and assistance to manage awarded funds properly.

The Mississippi Conference of Black Mayors represents 88 black mayors of communities from across the state of Mississippi. MCBM serves as a catalyst for bringing together mayors and municipal leaders, including state and federal officials and leaders in the public and private sectors, for the purpose of networking and obtaining information on the latest policies and strategies for municipal governments.

About the Delta Regional Authority

The DRA is a federal-state partnership created by Congress in 2000 to help create jobs, build communities, and improve lives through strategic investments in economic development in 252 counties and parishes across eight states. 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 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. Learn more at dra.gov/SEDAP.

Contact: Spencer Lucker
(202) 434-4842
slucker@dra.gov