Delta Regional Authority
October 09, 2020  
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Delta News Round-up

A Message from the Federal Co-Chairman | DRA Awards $27.9 Million Investment into Delta, Alabama Black Belt Communities | DRA, DoL Award $14.5 Million to 13 Organizations through WORC Initiative | Delta Leadership Institute Graduates 31 Fellows in Virtual Graduation Ceremony | Delta Workforce Grant Program 2020 Application Deadline Extended to October 16th

A Message from the Federal Co-Chairman

The past few weeks have been busy but exciting ones for the Delta Regional Authority.  In the last month, DRA has announced a $27.9 million investment through the States’ Economic Development Assistance Program (SEDAP) and Community Infrastructure Fund (CIF), a $29 million investment from the U.S. Department of Labor through the Workforce Opportunity for Rural Communities (WORC) initiative, and graduated 31 Delta Leadership Institute fellows.  These announcements highlight the continued resiliency and dedication of Mississippi River Delta and Alabama Black Belt communities and residents to further economic growth in the coming year.

Last Tuesday, I joined U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia and Chairman Tim Thomas of the Appalachian Regional Commission, to announce the second round of WORC grants, which invests over $14.5 million into 13 projects across the Delta region and is anticipated to provide industry-driven training and support services to nearly 3,500 individuals.  These WORC grants are highly competitive, and this year all eight DRA states have at least one program awarded this grant.

This week, I traveled to Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama to view DRA-funded projects already in development and announce new grants to improve workforce development and help rebuild communities throughout the region.  At the University of Louisiana Monroe, we announced a $1 million WORC grant to develop a Louisiana Delta Business Academy for college-bound students.  In West Monroe, Louisiana, we announced a $714,512 SEDAP grant to install new water and sewer lines for a new commercial development and celebrated the completion of a DRA-funded project to eliminate erosion the city’s commercial park, which created 146 new jobs and an anticipated 150 additional jobs to be created in 2021.  At Hinds Community College in Richland, Mississippi, I toured two nationally recognized academies and spoke with regional industry partners in the transportation and logistics sectors.  At the University of West Alabama, we launched the “Skills on Wheels” Mobile Training Lab funded by a $2.5 million WORC grant in 2019 to provide virtual and hands-on training in advanced manufacturing and technologies.

None of these announcements would be possible without the hard work and dedication of the Delta Regional Authority staff.  They have put in countless hours over the past few months during this difficult time to review grant applications, work with our federal partners, develop DRA programming, and coordinate these announcements so local residents are aware of the economic development and workforce training opportunities available in their communities.  DRA’s mission to create jobs, build communities, and improve the lives of the 252 counties and parishes of the Delta and Alabama Black Belt is not achievable without them, and I would like to thank them for all they do.

DRA Awards $27.9 Million Investment into Delta, Alabama Black Belt Communities

The Delta Regional Authority (DRA) announced $27,987,444 in investments for 94 economic development projects.  The 94 new investment projects will provide funding to improve water and sewer systems, build access roads and repair existing transportation infrastructure, expand broadband services, develop industry-led job training programs, and support crucial healthcare services in communities throughout the DRA footprint.

“The Delta Regional Authority’s $27.9 million investment into 94 critical projects will strengthen economic success in the Mississippi River Delta and Alabama Black Belt regions by improving vital infrastructure and creating opportunities to foster workforce development,” said DRA Federal Co-Chairman Chris Caldwell.  “These investments highlight the importance of local and regional public-private partnerships in realizing the long-term success of infrastructure, business, and workforce projects to spur job growth and ultimately improve business competitiveness in the region.”

Funding for these projects is provided by the States’ Economic Development Assistance Program (SEDAP), which provide direct investment into community-based and regional projects to support basic public infrastructure, transportation infrastructure, workforce training and education, and small businesses development with an emphasis on entrepreneurship, and the Community Infrastructure Fund (CIF), which targets physical infrastructure projects that help build safer, more resilient communities in the Delta region.

DRA, DoL Award $14.5 Million to 13 Organizations through WORC Initiative

The Delta Regional Authority (DRA), in partnership with the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Employment and Training Administration (ETA), announced on September 29th a $14,587,500 investment into 13 organizations throughout the Mississippi River Delta and Alabama Black Belt to expand the impact of workforce development efforts in a second round of grant funding through the Workforce Opportunity for Rural Communities (WORC) initiative.

ETA awarded grants to projects focused on areas hard hit by economic transition and recovering more slowly. Selected projects are innovative and sustainable strategies providing needed career, training, and support services to eligible individuals, which will assist in meeting workforce challenges and industry needs currently underserved by other resources in the Delta.

“For rural communities to be competitive today, we must ensure economic development and skills development go hand in hand,” said DRA Federal Co-Chairman Chris Caldwell.  “Through the Workforce Opportunity for Rural Communities initiative, the Delta Regional Authority enables Delta communities to strengthen workforce pipelines and continue upward economic mobility.  Thanks to the vision of Senator Blunt and leadership of President Trump and Secretary Scalia, the WORC Initiative will provide critical investments into innovative, industry-driven workforce training across the Delta.”

Authorized by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, WORC Initiative grants take a long-term view toward assisting eligible communities in diversifying their economies and expanding and diversifying partnerships by investing in local strategies developed by regional partners. ETA awardees align and integrate workforce development activities with existing state, regional, or community development strategies. Ranging from $150,000 to $1.5 million, the grants can also help serve those receiving employment and training services from organizations in regions affected by the opioid crisis.

Delta Leadership Institute Graduates 31 Fellows in Virtual Graduation Ceremony

The Delta Leadership Institute (DLI) Executive Academy graduated 31 fellows during a September 23rd virtual ceremony.  This graduating class marks the 15th year of DLI-trained regional leaders equipped to improve the economic competitiveness and social viability of the Mississippi River Delta and Alabama Black Belt.

The 31 Executive Academy fellows completed the year-long DLI Executive Academy, a leadership development program that brings together public, private, and nonprofit sector leaders from DRA’s eight-state region. The program empowers fellows with the tools, experiences, and networks to address local and regional challenges, improve decision-making and policy development, and strengthen leadership capacity and mutual understanding of regional, state, and local cultures and issues.

“The Delta Leadership Institute is a dynamic tool within DRA to promote the economic advancement of the Delta,” said DRA Federal Co-Chairman Chris Caldwell.  “DLI’s diverse curriculum provides the next generation of economic and community development leaders with the tools needed to create change within their communities.  I congratulate the DLI graduates and challenge you to use this new skillset to shape the development a more resilient Delta economy.”

The graduates participated in six training sessions over the past year to educate them on the regional and local economic and community development best practices employed across the Delta to catalyze innovative solutions implementable in their own community and region.  DLI fellows learn from local, regional and national experts in infrastructure and transportation, small business and entrepreneurship, workforce development, public health and other fields necessary to facilitate economic growth in the Delta.

Congratulations to the following Delta Leaders who are now members of the Delta Leadership Network:

Ollie Davison, Birmingham, AL
Deputy District Director, U.S. Congresswoman Terri Sewell

Llevelyn Rhone, Greensboro, AL
Founder, Greensboro Regional Opportunity Works, Inc.

Fengna “Yvette” Zheng, Livingston, AL
Business Advisor, Small Business Development Center, University of West Alabama

Andy Davis, Roland, AR
Principal, New Water Systems, LLC

Susan A. Edwards, Little Rock, AR
Program Analyst, Delta Regional Authority

Suzzette Goldmon, Monticello, AR
Director of Hospitality and Tourism, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff

Samantha Montgomery, Little Rock, AR
Digital Coordinator, Arkansas Attorney General’s Office

Gene A. White, Jr., Pine Bluff, AR
Director of Advising and Retention, Southeast Arkansas College

Deborah Barnett, Carbondale, IL
Director, Business Incubator Programs and Associate Director, SIU Research Park, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

Lauren Bonner, Carbondale, IL
Senate Aid, Office of U.S. Senator Richard Durbin

Jamie Green, Carbondale, IL
President, Murphysboro Main Street

Brooke Guthman, Murphysboro, IL
Member Services Manager, Egyptian Electric Cooperative Association

Hannah Chretien, Kevil, KY
Interim Director, Ballard Chamber of Commerce & Tourism

Mason DeJarnett, Paducah, KY
Territory Manager, Fabick CAT

Karen Burks, Metairie, LA
Career and Workforce Development Trainer, Urban League of Louisiana

Mary Lewis, Alexandria, LA
Business and Cooperative Specialist, USDA, Rural Development

Brady Middleton, Rayville, LA
Director of Business Development, Ascent Health, Inc.

Byron Washington, Baton Rouge, LA
President/Chair of Board, NBR Now, Inc.

John (Russ) Garner, Brooksville, MS
Extension/Research Associate, Southern Rural Development Center

L Nicole Stringfellow, Cleveland, MS
Vice President, Delta Region, Together for Hope

Charles Williams, Jr., Jackson, MS
City Engineer, City of Jackson

Hannah Barnett, Dexter, MO
Executive Director, Bootheel Regional Planning and Economic Development Commission

Shad Burner, Cape Girardeau, MO
Project Manager, Missouri Department of Economic Development

Kathy Medley, Sikeston, MO
Executive Vice President, Sikeston Regional Chamber & Economic Development Corp.

Gregory Roeback, Washington, MO
Chief Executive Officer, Great Mines Health Center

Krista Snyder, Potosi, MO
Executive Director, Washington County Industrial Development

Kim Foster, Paris, TN
City Manager, City of Paris

Joey Hassell, Brownsville, TN
Superintendent of Schools, Haywood County Schools

Erica Plybeah Hemphill, Memphis, TN
Founder & CEO at MedHaul

Brett Lashlee, Camden, TN
County Mayor, Benton County

Cody C. Wood, Lexington, TN
Chief Financial Officer, City of Lexington

Delta Workforce Grant Program 2020 Application Deadline Extended to October 16th

The Delta Workforce Grant Program (DWP) is extending the 2020 application cycle to Friday, October 16th at 11:59 PM CT.  To submit a grant application, visit the Delta Workforce Grant Program portal at  Additional information about the Delta Workforce Program, including important dates and resources, is available at

The program invests federal resources in communities across the Mississippi River Delta and Alabama Black Belt regions particularly hard hit by industrial downsizing, business closures, and job losses as a result of the public health and economic crisis. 

Under the program’s Request for Proposals, DRA makes available $1.5 million in grants ranging from $25,000-150,000 to support industry-driven workforce development programs and initiatives in Delta and Alabama Black Belt communities.  Applications must target workforce training and education for individuals residing in the DRA region and include at least one employer partner seeking to hire more skilled workers in a high-demand industry sector.

To complement this funding opportunity, DRA will offer post-award technical assistance to grantees to ensure projects are effectively and sustainably implemented.

Upcoming Events:

October 16, 2020
Delta Workforce Grant Program application closes

Click Here To Submit An Event

DRA Newsroom:

Delta Regional Authority

236 Sharkey Avenue - Suite 400
Clarksdale, MS 38614
(662) 624-8600 | DRA.GOV

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