Louisiana Delta Initiative sets public presentation for April 2 in Rayville

Mary Ann Van Osdell, Dixon, Glen, Barnes, James  |  3/27/2009 11:56:27 PM

News Release Distributed 03/27/09

The Louisiana Delta Initiative is inviting community and governmental leaders to “One Voice: Communities Moving from Poverty to Prosperity” from 1 to 3:30 p.m. April 2 at the Rayville Civic Center in Rayville.

Committees on education, health care, jobs and entrepreneurship, and infrastructure/ broadband connectivity will present action plans on improving access to these areas.

The LSU AgCenter and Southern University Ag Center have led the development of Louisiana Delta Initiative in collaboration with existing economic development groups in the region. The group was formed to act on state Sen. Francis Thompson’s 2007 legislation that called for regional economic development in northeast Louisiana, where one in four people live in poverty, said Dr. James Barnes, director of the LSU AgCenter's Delta Rural Development Center.

Thompson will speak at 1:45 p.m. during the April 2 event.

Barnes recruited a team of community and economic development professionals to address poverty issues. He said the mission of the team is to research, evaluate and determine the most critical issues facing rural areas in 12 parishes – Caldwell, Catahoula, Concordia, East Carroll, Franklin, Madison, Morehouse, Ouachita, Pointe Coupee, Richland, Tensas and West Carroll.

Barnes charged the team with identifying existing resources and developing an action plan to identify “best practices” to reduce poverty.

The team has completed that initial task and is prepared to introduce a plan of action, Barnes said. “We hope the ideas shared will be met with support, acceptance and encouragement,” he said.

“We hope those attending realize these are concepts which will require further development and more involvement by others in the region to bring about real change. This is the beginning, not the end of the process,” said Glenn Dixon, an agent with the Southern University Ag Center.

Establishing a rural entrepreneurship program and a leadership program, the first two priorities of Act 347, have been accomplished, Barnes said. The LSU AgCenter, the Southern University Ag Center and Louisiana Economic Development collaborated to offer training on how to start an e-business. Several classes have been delivered.

In addition, the LSU AgCenter and SU Ag Center collaborated with Entergy Corp. to develop two leadership programs – Lead Louisiana and Lead Louisiana II.

The organization has presented Lead Louisiana programs in Tensas and Richland parishes, and more e-business and leadership courses are planned for other areas of the region, Barnes said.

Other network partners include area mayors and development districts, the Northeast Louisiana Economic Alliance, chambers of commerce and educators.

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.

Mary Ann Van Osdell 

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