Delta Regional Authority – Regional Development Plan

ChallengeThe Delta Regional Authority (DRA) is a federal-state partnership serving a 252-county/parish area encompassing portions of Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee. Led by a Federal Co-Chairman and the governors of each participating state, DRA is charged with improving the standard of living for the more than 9.5 million people living in the region. Relative to the overall economic well-being of the United States, the Mississippi River Delta region continues to experience pervasive economic and social distress. While many areas of the American South have prospered in the modern economy, growth and prosperity in the Delta has remained largely uneven. Indeed, only 10 of the region’s 252 counties and parishes are not defined as economically distressed.

ApproachWith our partner on the project – Taimerica Management Company – TIP developed a plan that includes large-scale initiatives designed to address regional challenges, such as developing a healthy and productive workforce, strengthening physical infrastructure, and expanding information technology capacity and access. As part of our stakeholder input process, the TIP team traveled to all eight states in the Delta region to meet with state and local economic development officials about the project. The plan provides locally-focused tools that promote civic leadership, entrepreneurship, and quality of place. Emphasis within the plan is given to designing policies, systems, and measures that enable DRA’s programs to stimulate additional private investment.

OutcomeTIP Strategies delivered the regional development plan to the DRA in May 2008. Since then, the Authority has incorporated the plan’s investment priorities into its state grant funding program. The plan stressed a new economic model for the Delta. Rather than a continued emphasis on sustaining the region’s declining industrial and agricultural base, the regional development plan envisions an economic transition to information technology and professional services. According to Pete Johnson, the former Federal Co-Chair of the DRA, the agency “used this opportunity to totally rethink the economic and community development strategies. Congress and the president have made it clear that they want the DRA to be more than an agency that simply administers a grant program. Through the release of the comprehensive regional development plan, we’ve achieved that goal.”

TIP Contact Alex Cooke

Photo credit Joe Ross