James Barnes, Merrill, Thomas A., Coolman, Denise
OAK GROVE – In the few weeks he’s been with the LSU AgCenter, one Northeast Louisiana faculty member already is trying to make remarkable strides to help boost economic development in one of the poorest regions of the nation.
Dr. James Barnes began working with the LSU AgCenter in February at the Delta Rural Development Center, located in the Thomas Jason Lingo Community Center in West Carroll Parish. During his first 60 days, he has helped the AgCenter achieve several goals, such as applying for funds to help pay for economic development efforts and finding programs that will help spur economic development in the area.
West Carroll Parish is a part of the Mississippi Delta – a region that borders the Mississippi River in Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi and has long been known as an economically depressed area.
Barnes joins a growing LSU AgCenter team, as well as faculty members from land-grant universities in surrounding states, working to boost the area’s economy and improve the quality of life for its citizens.
"We already have applied for about $340,000 in grants," Barnes said. "We have also identified extension programs that will be given our highest priority."
Barnes said those priority programs will cover such topics as board governance and management, entrepreneurship and e-commerce.
"In addition, we have secured a strategic partnership to develop value-added agriculture grant opportunities working with the University of Missouri," Barnes said, adding, "We also have begun providing technical assistance for the expansion of businesses into West Carroll Parish."
In the next 60 days, Barnes said he plans to apply for additional grants totaling about $300,000. If he is successful, some of this money will be used to supply broadband Internet access to West Carroll Parish and to develop LSU AgCenter extension programs aimed at understanding the importance of the health sector on rural communities in Northeast Louisiana.
Barnes said he also plans to pilot-test the board governance, entrepreneurship and e-commerce programs. Other activities include continuing to provide technical assistance for expansion of business into West Carroll Parish.
In 2005-2006, Barnes said he will apply for about $1 million in grants, pilot-test extension educational programs in 10 communities, conduct feasibility and impact studies for value-added opportunities in Louisiana and continue to provide technical assistance for expansion of business into West Carroll Parish.
"I believe great potential exists for us to help this area of the state achieve economic success," Barnes said. "The Delta Rural Development Center can establish itself as the premier center for the study of rural development in the United States."
The LSU AgCenter has a long history of working to improve economic conditions and the quality of life in rural and urban areas of the state.
Its work in the Delta area is no exception, but even more concerted efforts for that area, which is rated as one of the nation’s most economically depressed, took off in 2003. That’s when the LSU AgCenter joined the Cooperative Extension Services of land-grant universities from Arkansas and Mississippi in agreeing to conduct multi-state programs directed at childhood obesity, workforce preparedness, the Master Farmer program and rural community development.
That year also was when the Thomas Jason Lingo Community Center – a $2 million multiuse facility built by private donations –was completed. In addition to the LSU AgCenter’s Delta Rural Development Center, the Lingo Center houses an AgCenter distance learning facility, an auditorium, meeting rooms and a large kitchen that can be used for catering or training. Organizers stress the community center was built to be used for economic growth.
LSU AgCenter Chancellor Bill Richardson said he believes Barnes will be a valuable tool in the AgCenter’s efforts to enhance economic growth in the Mississippi Delta.
"Dr. Barnes brings with him a wealth of knowledge that will benefit the LSU AgCenter in its quest to help bring economic development to this area of the state," Richardson said. "He will be a great asset."
Barnes comes to the LSU AgCenter from Oklahoma State University. His duties are to focus on economic development in Northeast Louisiana through workforce development training, grant writing opportunities and the development of educational programs that improve the health of residents in Northeast Louisiana and the greater Delta Region.