The LSU AgCenter has added strength to its quest to help organize an economic development strategy in the Northeast Louisiana. The added force is James Barnes, new director of the Delta Rural Development Center in Oak Grove.
Barnes came from Oklahoma in February. Already, he has helped the AgCenter achieve several goals.
“We have applied for more than $340,000 in grants,” he said. “This money will go toward doing research on how to recruit doctors and other medical practitioners to rural areas. We want to look at what are the best practices of contracting and what incentives are necessary to recruit doctors to rural areas.”
Barnes also plans board governance and entrepreneurship programs. The board governance program, or Healthy Boards, is a workshop open to all members of community boards. In this workshop, board members learn how to work together by learning how to trust one another and consider everyone’s ideas for making their governing body stronger.
The entrepreneurship program is a program designed to introduce high school students to the business world. The students learn how to manage people, as well as how to work in a business environment.
“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.”
John Mercer, director of the Northeast Educational Development Foundation (NEED), said Barnes “is just what this area needs” to help its people achieve economic success.
“He is a hard worker, very energetic,” Mercer said. “With him being here, the future is looking brighter. The people in this area have never had someone like Dr. Barnes they could turn to. His being here has opened new doors for them and for economic development in this region. He’s a fine young man and we are proud to have him as a part of our community.”
Barnes received his doctorate in agribusiness management from the University of Missouri-Columbia and his master’s and bachelor’s degrees in agricultural economics from Oklahoma State University. He also has received training in “Business Strategy and the Supply Chain” from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
In addition to being director of the Delta Rural Development Center, Barnes is also an assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness.
Before coming to the AgCenter, Barnes was an assistant professor of rural development at Oklahoma State University. In addition, Barnes has served as an agricultural economist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service. Barnes relates to the delta region of Louisiana because he grew up in a small town, population 500, in Soper, Okla.
“I saw the struggles my mom and dad went through with living on a small cow-calf operation in rural Oklahoma,” Barnes said. “I also saw other businessmen and women in my community struggle with their businesses. And, I saw how these people overcame their struggles to make life better for their families and their communities.
“If you care about people at all, you want to help them,” he said. “Rural development is about developing people. I care about the people living here and I want to live here so that I can know firsthand what their needs are.”