Region’s efforts praised

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 31, 2011

FERRIDAY — The Miss-Lou received encouraging news Wednesday when Delta Regional Authority Federal Co-Chairman Chris Masingill came through to tour the area, meet local officials and visit local projects the DRA helped fund.

The DRA is a federal-state partnership serving eight states, including Louisiana and Mississippi, that focuses on enhancing economic development and improving the quality of life for residents living in the Delta.

Masingill first visited Vidalia City Hall to check on the progress of the $65,000 DRA grant for phase I of the Vidalia Loading and Unloading Facility.

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Next, the tour went to the Adams County Correctional Center to view the progress of a $500,000 DRA grant to the City of Natchez for wastewater infrastructure improvement at the prison.

Masingill ended his stay in the Miss-Lou by taking a tour of the Ferriday Fairgrounds Downtown Development site.

Ferriday Mayor Glen McGlothin said he was glad to have Masingill in the area checking out all there is to offer.

“We always have guests who come down to our area, but there are very few that have the passion for area’s like ours,” he said.

Masingill said his job leaves him on the road the majority of the time, and there is no other place he would rather be.

“I have to get out here to see what we are working with so we can enhance things,” he said. “We need to look for ways to create opportunities so communities like this can be successful.”

The Miss-Lou’s regionalism efforts were applauded by Masingill who said it is going to take cooperation among communities in the Delta to compete with the rest of the country.

“It really is encouraging to come through an area like this where you are working across the river with another state,” he said. “That is the kind of leadership that puts you ahead of the game. Collaboration and regionalism are the only ways for us to be competitive as we grow and move forward.”

Masingill mentioned four key areas in which the Delta needs to focus to help stimulate economic development, including basic public infrastructure, transportation, workforce education and development and small business entrepreneurship.

With many communities focusing on the first three areas, Masingill said more work needs to be done with small businesses.

“There is not a whole lot of investing going on in that area,” he said. “We need to try and find ways to help bolster that and put a greater emphasis on it.”

Masingill also said focusing on creating a healthy and educated workforce is crucial to establishing economic development.

“You cannot separate economic development from education,” he said. “If you have an uneducated, un-trainable work force, you will lose opportunities to grow.”

Masingill also mentioned a new area in which all counties, parishes and states that the DRA oversees would be positively affected called bioeconomy.

“The creation of a bioeconomy, or using renewable energies and biofuels as a major part of your economy, would work very well in the Delta region,” he said. “With all of our abundant resources, we are positioned within the country to be the leaders in this movement.”

Masingill said his time in the Miss-Lou was well spent, and he hopes to continue to hear of the progress going on in the area.

“This area rivals anything I have seen in any other part of the Delta region,” he said. “Continuing to work together and build relationships will help you progress even further.”