LITTLE ROCK — The Delta Regional Caucus on Wednesday announced more than $200 million in investments by businesses and nonprofit organizations in the economically depressed Delta region.
The caucus made the announcement a day ahead of its annual conference, set for Thursday and Friday at the Clinton Presidential Center.
Scheduled to speak at the conference are gubernatorial candidates Asa Hutchinson, Mike Ross, Bill Halter and Curtis Coleman; Gov. Mike Beebe; U.S. Sens. John Boozman, R-Ark., and Mark Pryor, D-Ark.; and U.S. Reps. Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle, and Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro.
The investments announced Wednesday include:
—Mid-South Delta Local Initiatives Support Corporation, or LISC, announced the investment of $60 million in loans, grants and equity, with about a $10 million investment over five years in program support and credit enhancement, and leveraging up to an additional $190 million in total development costs from their network of local partners across the region, for a total investment of $200-$250 million. The investments are for housing, job creation, energy efficiency in LISC’s Green Development Center and "green" best practices, policy advocacy, and other community and economic development initiatives in the region.
—Southern Bancorp and its affiliates have made more than $3 billion in loans for affordable credit and capital in markets largely abandoned by banks, helping over 1,000 individuals accumulate assets through individual development accounts, and granting more than $10 million to communities in the Delta areas of Arkansas and Mississippi for local revitalization projects.
—Heifer International announced a $250,000 implementation grant for fiscal year 2014 to support the "Seeds of Change" project in the eastern Arkansas Delta. The project is focused on sustainable agriculture and enterprise development, farmers’ markets, technical assistance, financial training, credit counseling, value-added goods and other actions filling the gaps in the regional food value chain. This follows through on Heifer’s pledge to expand its activities in the Delta made at the Clinton Global Initiative in 2012.
—The Foundation for the Mid South announced a pledge of up to $2 million to address work force and economic development opportunities in the Delta.
—HOPE Enterprise Corp. and HOPE Credit Union also have made progress on pledges they made at the Clinton Global Initiative last year, increasing member-owners from 9,000 to 28,000 and closing more than 7,200 loans totaling over $260 million. Projects announced include a new credit union set up in Utica, Miss., after the only bank in the city closed, a new micro branch to be set up in Pine Bluff in collaboration with the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, and new enhanced version of HOPE Mobile, their mobile banking app, now serving 300 members.
"We commend Mid-South Delta LISC, Heifer International and the 42 partners of the collaborative Seeds of Change program in the east Arkansas Delta, Southern Bancorp and HOPE Enterprise Corp./HOPE Credit Union for these exemplary projects that will generate jobs, provide financial services, promote sustainable agriculture, enterprise development, energy efficiency/green jobs, and home ownership," Caucus Director Lee Powell said in a news release.