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A Time of ReckoningTesting the Will for Change in the Mississippi Deltajune 2009

COVER: Sharecropper, Greenwood, Mississippi, 2006; PHOTO BY: DL AndersonMDC’s mission is to help organizations and communities close the gaps that separate people from opportunity. We have been working to create positive change in disadvantagedcommunities for 40 years – by conducting research and demonstrating effective programs at the community level. We focus on three areas: education, economic and workforcedevelopment, and asset building and strategic philanthropy.We are a private, nonprofit organization located in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and supported by grants and contracts from foundation; federal, state, and local governments;and the private sector.MDC Research Committee: Colin Austin, John Cooper, David Dodson, Ferrell Guillory, Richard Hart, Megan Kauffmann, Lauren Koehler, Christina RauschGraphic design by Rachel GoodwinThis report was written with support from the Mississippi Bureau of Long-Range Economic Development Planning and the Special Task Force for the Revitalization of theMississippi Delta Region. MDC would like to thank the members of the Task Force along with Pete Walley and Debra Anderson of the Bureau of Long-Range EconomicDevelopment Planning for their input and assistance.MDC Inc.P.O. Box 17268Chapel Hill, NC 27516-7268Tel: 919-968-4531Fax: 919-929-8557www.mdcinc.org

Table of ContentsA letter from Chairman Robert G. Clark . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3Executive Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4Delta revitalization plan. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6FindingsState of the Delta . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .7FrameworkConditions of progress . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12Leadership StructureThe Mississippi Delta Revitalization Fund . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14Goal 1Double postsecondary attainment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15Goal 2Connect jobseekers to career pathways . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17Goal 3Remove health disparities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .19Goal 4Expand benefits of the creative economy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .21Epilogue . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .23Sources and Resources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .24A Time of Reckoning: Testing the Will for Change in the Mississippi Delta2

A letter from Chairman Robert G. ClarkApril 2009Dear Delta Citizens:The Mississippi Legislature created the Special Task Force for Revitalization ofthe Mississippi Delta Region through House Bill 1034 in 2006. Our state leadersrecognized that the Delta Region needed a comprehensive and coordinated plan torevitalize the region and improve the well-being of its people. I was appointed tothe special task force by the Lt. Governor and Speaker of the House of Representatives and was elected its chairman at it first meeting on June 15th, 2006.I am no stranger to the Delta Region, having been born, raised and still residing inHolmes County. I am keenly aware of the generational needs of the region. As taskforce chairman, I have given you my best effort to bring together exceptional people andresources to develop a plan to reverse decades of neglect and decline in the region.Following the directions of the enabling legislation, the task force has worked hardto develop a plan to revitalize the Delta Region. This document is that plan. I askthat you use it as a guide or roadmap to begin a systematic and continuous effortto raise the quality of life in the in the region and bring about attitude changes.But a plan without action is no more effective than words written and never read.Citizens as well as the many organizations of the Delta must individually andcollectively take actions that will revitalize the Delta.According to the enabling legislation, the task force will disband effective June 30,2009. But I and many others in the Delta will continue to work for improvementsin the economic and social conditions of the region. Please join us in this effort bylooking for ways to get involved while offering new, creative ideas and strategies.Above all, keep the needs of the Mississippi Delta on the minds of state leaders.Avoid complacency. With persistence, something worth while is always achieved.Sincerely,Task Force for Revitalizationof the Mississippi Delta RegionHonorable Clara Henderson BurnetteMr. Robert G. ClarkSenator Eugene S. “Buck” ClarkeMr. Bill CrumpMr. Tommy GoodwinMr. Walton Gresham, IIIHonorable John W. Hines, Sr.Mr. L. Ray HumphreysMs. Helen HunterSenator Robert L. JacksonMr. Larry “Kite” JohnsonMr. Clifton JohnsonDr. Rosetta Jones-HowardSenator David L. JordanHonorable John MayoMr. John R. OsborneHonorable Willie J. Perkins, Sr.Ms. Judy PhillipsMr. Bern PrewittMs. Clara ReedMr. McArthur StraughterMr. Gray SwoopeRobert G. Clark, ChairmanSpecial Task Force for Revitalization of the Mississippi Delta RegionDr. Myrtis S. Tabb3Senator Johnnie E. Walls, Jr.A Time of Reckoning: Testing the Will for Change in the Mississippi DeltaMr. George Walker

Executive SummaryState of the DeltaThe Mississippi Delta has the reputation of being resistant to change. Over thepast 40 years government and private philanthropy have invested heavily inthe region, with little documented effect. In 2009 much of the Delta is stillcharacterized by the same issues that existed in 1969—a lack of good jobs,underperforming schools, racial division, and low levels of human development.And the effects carry over to the rest of Mississippi, resulting in the state oftenoccupying the lowest rung of national rankings. Current data paints a picture ofa region in distress with no end in sight: Unemployment rates in the Delta region from 2001 to 2007 fluctuated between 8% and 10%, consistently exceeding those of Mississippi and of thenation. In December 2008 most Delta counties registered unemploymentrates between 10 and 17%. The unemployment rate among blacks in theDelta is over 3 times higher than the unemployment rate for whites. Most of the jobs that exist in the Delta cluster around the 10 - 13 range, closeto poverty levels. The largest growth rate is occurring in low-paying serviceoccupations with average earnings less than 10 per hour. Educational attainment in the Delta is low. Almost 18% of the adult population has less than 9th grade education. The Delta is also well below the national average for college attainment, resulting in 20,000 fewer individualswith an associate’s degree or above. Great income disparities persist. In 2007, the median household income forwhites in the Delta was 44,055, which is only slightly less than the stateaverage for whites of 44,955. In contrast, the median household income forblacks in the Delta was 21,165, which is 23% less than the state medianhousehold income for blacks.Three Conditions of ProgressWithout fairness and equity it is impossible to create economic growth. For example, attention must be paid to disconnected populations in order to increase thenumber of workers with college degrees. Addressing equity is often beyond thepurview of traditional economic development. Yet for the Mississippi Delta regionthe ability to address disparities will be critical. In short, the Delta region mustfind the interventions that matter and the people courageous enough to makethem happen. The following elements form the “three legs” of the stool that mustbe in place to overcome long-standing division and economic stagnation:1. Bold ideas with a promise of social and economic return on investment.Philanthropic investors and far-sighted corporations are investing in innovative approaches to education and workforce development as high leveragestrategies for addressing poverty and competitiveness. These prototypesare urgently needed in the Delta and if successfully implemented, could betransferable to other parts of the state. The Delta should be “ground zero”for innovation in education and workforce development in Mississippi.2. Institutional capacity to execute skillfully with attention to public accountabilityand measurable results. Large community institutions such as schools, colleges,and universities will be required to work differently. Key employers and support agencies will also need to demonstrate significant returns. If institutionscan produce in a reliable way the region will become more attractive for economic development.3. Public will, especially among leaders of influence, to make reducing distress a priority for public and private investment. Engaged leadership atthe state and local level must create the pre-conditions for economic development. Is there a will to level ground that is uneven?Divided communities and regions do not develop. Capital does not flow andtransaction costs are too high. In order to break out of a cycle of low returns,the Delta needs an approach that addresses underlying human conditions whileresponding to real market opportunities.A Time of Reckoning: Testing the Will for Change in the Mississippi Delta4

Delta Revitalization PlanLeadership structure: The Delta Strategic Compact. The purpose of the Compact will be to address structural problems of equity and competitiveness. Leadership will directstrategic investments towards activities that demonstrate visible results. Incorporators will include decision-makers such as college presidents, superintendents, businessexecutives, and agency heads. The Compact will be capitalized by a combination of public and private sources.GoalsDoublepost-secondaryattainmentConnect jobseekers to livingwage careersRemove healthdisparitiesEstablish the Deltaas a national centerfor creative artsMetricsPercent of 26-year oldsthat obtain at least anAssociate’s degreeor credential.One year retention ratefor job seekers placed inemployment with clearadvancement ladders.Percent of national ratesfor obesity, diabetes, andheart disease.Number of peopleemployed in creativeeconomy industries.Bridge transition tocollege and promotesuccessful completion.Sequence training andadvancement supportalong career pathways.Promote diseaseprevention and wellnessfor at-risk or vulnerablepopulations.Expand benefits of heritagetourism through entrepreneurship training, support,and networking for localbusiness ventures.Long-termStrategyModelsRedesign education intoa PreK-16 system andincrease performance.Use sector developmentstrategies to support keygrowth industries andprovide a pipelineof trained workers.Establish community-widehealthy living practices.Stimulate growth inthe arts sector includinginstruction, production,and support services.ModelsLearn and Earn Schools;Center for Working Families;Achieving the Dream;Early College andP-16 CouncilsSouthern Good Faith Fund;Benefit Bank;National Fund forWorkforce SolutionsNC Health andWellness Trust Fund;Rapides Foundation;Robert Wood JohnsonFoundationHandmade in America;Enterprise Corporationof the Delta;Arkansas CreativeIndustry ClusterImmediateStrategyOPPOSITE: Catching fireflies, Clarksdale, Mississippi, 2007; PHOTO BY: DL AndersonA Time of Reckoning: Testing the Will for Change in the Mississippi Delta6

State of the DeltaThe following economic development indicators demonstrate that the Mississippi Delta is falling behind. A low educational profile, with many high schooldropouts and relatively few college degree holders, leads to high levels ofunemployment. These conditions translate into low-wage job growth and lowlevels of income. Without assets, individuals and communities of the Delta areunable to generate the public and private revenue needed for growth.40%Delta RegionPercent of Age 25 Population35%Mississippi30%United States25%20%15%10%5%0%Less than 9th gradeHigh School Graduate(Includes Equivalency)Some College, No DegreeChart 1: Educational AttainmentEducational attainment in the Delta is below that of the state and the nationfor an associate’s degree and above. If the Delta region achieved the sameaverage as the state, there would be roughly 6,000 more individuals with an7A Time of Reckoning: Testing the Will for Change in the Mississippi DeltaAssociates DegreeBachelors DegreeMasters or ProfessionalDegreeassociate’s degree or above; if the Delta achieved the national average, roughly20,000 more individuals would have an associate’s degree or above.Source: Claritas, American Community Survey 2005-2007Educational Attainment in 2007

11%10%Unemployment Rate9%8%7%6%5%4%Delta Region3%2%Mississippi1%United States0%2001200220032004200520062007YearSource: MDES LMI, 2001-2007. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Annual Average Unemployment Rate, Civilian LaborForce 16 years and over”Unemployment Rate in the Delta, Mississippi,and the United States, 2001-2007Chart 2: Unemployment RateThe unemployment rates in the Delta region consistently exceed those ofMississippi and of the nation. The graph above also suggests that unemploymentin the Delta region has a dragging effect on the unemployment rate of the state asa whole. While the United States experienced a decline in the unemployment ratebetween 2003 and 2005, the unemployment rate increased in both the Delta and inMississippi during the same period.Carpenter Gary Gist at work outside of Clarksdale, Mississippi., 2007; PHOTO BY: DL AndersonA Time of Reckoning: Testing the Will for Change in the Mississippi Delta8

aManagement, business, and financial occupationsbProfessional and related occupationscService occupationsdSales