LSU AgCenter announces delta initiatives

James Barnes, Van Osdell, Mary Ann  |  2/9/2009 8:11:49 PM

News Release Distributed 02/09/09

VIDALIA, La. – The creation of a virtual e-business incubator was among announcements at a meeting of the Louisiana Delta Initiative Jan. 29.

The Louisiana Delta Initiative is a regional network of community and economic development organizations working in collaboration to improve the economic conditions in the 12-parish, Louisiana delta region

The organization was formed in response to 2007 legislation that called for regional economic development in northeast Louisiana where one in four people live in poverty. The legislation, Act 347, was introduced by State Sen. Francis C. Thompson, D-Delhi. The act includes the parishes of Caldwell, Catahoula, Concordia, East Carroll, Franklin, Madison, Morehouse, Ouachita, Pointe Coupee, Richland, Tensas and West Carroll.

“Due to Sen. Thompson’s efforts to secure funds for the initiative, this incubator will provide access to 10 new desktop computers and broadband connectivity for entrepreneurs to create business plans and access Small Business Development Center courses,” said Dr. James Barnes, director of the LSU AgCenter's Delta Rural Development Center, the lead agency in developing the network.

“This gives our rural business owners opportunities to use access to the Internet to strengthen their businesses by purchasing materials at a lower cost and selling online – reaching global customers,” Barnes said.

In another project, five computers will be loaned to businesses, Barnes said.

“We’ll help them establish a Web presence and market that Web presence,” he said. “And through our partnership at the Small Business Development Center, we’ll provide financial analysis of their companies to help them get online and make sales.”

The plan also will provide access to broadband Internet connectivity, Barnes added, calling that goal “critical.”

A rural entrepreneurship program and a leadership program – the first two priorities of Act 347 – have been established, Barnes said. The LSU AgCenter has conducted four e-business classes and has scheduled five more.

Thompson praised Louisiana Delta Initiative for what it has accomplished and considers the group’s effort quite possibly “the last best chance” to help the delta.

“We need to be on the top of some good lists,” Thompson said, reporting the latest unemployment statistics. “From Concordia to the Arkansas line, we’re in double digits. We ought to challenge commerce and industry to bring one industry to every parish in the delta.”

Thompson, chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Forestry, Aquaculture, and Rural Development Committee, told the group they shouldn’t look to Baton Rouge and Washington to solve problems in the delta. “It’s got to happen with the people here,” he said.

“They came to my rescue,” Thompson said of the LSU AgCenter. “The AgCenter people at LSU and Southern University are real scientists. We’ve got a group of credible people involved. You can’t find a better, more effective group.”

Thompson said he recently returned from the 2009 conference of legislative agricultural chairs in California where land and water costs are high.

“If you heard California’s problems, you’d be so happy to live in the delta,” he said.

“I have not lost my energy on this drive, this movement,” Thompson told the meeting. “I see us almost at the tipping point. I want to change the footprint that’s in the delta today. It’s going to take more players than we have. Y’all hang in here and use your best resources.”

Network partners include Louisiana Economic Development, area mayors, development districts, economic alliances, chambers of commerce, educators and Entergy Corp.

To learn more about the Louisiana Delta Initiative, contact Barnes at (318) 428-3571 or jbarnes@agcenter.lsu.edu. The group’s Web site is www.lsuagcenter.com/drdc.

The organization is planning a meeting to update elected officials in the delta in March.

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Contact: James Barnes at (318) 428-3571 or jbarnes@agcenter.lsu.edu

Writer: Mary Ann Van Osdell (318) 741-7430, ext. 1104, or mvanosdell@agcenter.lsu.edu  

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