Alcorn partners with Delta Regional Authority to host listening session on campus

Alcorn State University is joining forces with an agency that strives to provide a better economy for its residents.

The Delta Regional Authority partnered with the University to host a Listening Session Thursday, Oct. 27, in the J.D. Boyd Library Medgar Evers Auditorium. The session served as a tool to strengthen the relationship between the Delta Regional Authority and the communities they serve, especially traditionally underserved communities that have not engaged with federal agencies.

The Delta Regional Authority works to improve regional economic opportunity by assisting in the creation of jobs, building communities, and improving the lives of millions who live in the 252 counties and parishes of the eight-state Delta Region.

The agency, which Congress formed in 2000, makes strategic investments of federal appropriations into the physical and human infrastructure of Delta communities. Through the state’s Economic Development Assistance Program, these investments help to improve transpiration and basic public infrastructure and to strengthen workforce development systems and local business environments.

President Joe Biden named Dr. Corey Wiggins, who earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Alcorn in 2003, as the agency’s federal co-chairman. Wiggins, a Hazlehurst, Mississippi native, recently served as the executive director of the Mississippi State Conference NAACP. He’s also served as senior vice president of Policy at Hope Enterprise Corporation and Hope Credit Union. Previously, he served as director of the Hope Policy Institute, where he focused on strengthening communities, building assets, and improving lives in economically distressed parts of the MidSouth.

Wiggins spoke about key metrics the agency uses to evaluate its impact on the communities it serves.

“We focus on the jobs created, jobs retained, and families affected by infrastructures such as water and sewer projects,” said Wiggins. “We use these metrics to evaluate what we’re doing when looking at our grant-making programs. This visit is to ensure that the people we serve know who we are and that we form relationships with the people that we serve.”

Wiggins discussed the importance of grant funding and utilizing those funds to enhance every community in the agency’s region.

“Part of my job is to ensure the money is spread across the region. We’ve doubled the amount of grant-making money. We recently closed $55 million in grant funding, and we probably have another $10 to $15 million to go before the end of the year, which is historic for our agency. It is my job to spend every dime to initiate projects that we will properly evaluate, and we will make smart investments.”

Wiggins said that the agency has more things in store for the future development of their communities.

“In the coming weeks, we will announce our workforce development training programs. There will be about $6 million in that program for people in our region. Some of our communities are saying despite the funding available for future projects, and they have long-standing issues that need immediate attention. So, we will announce our strategic planning grant, allowing communities and institutions to help plan actions for immediate needs while the agency’s existing grant-making programs address other needs.”

Officials from surrounding counties, including Claiborne, Jefferson, and Warren, attended the program and addressed their communities’ strengths and how agency funding could enhance the resources provided to their residents. Project development and acquiring federal funds were also topics addressed during the session.

Alcorn President Dr. Felecia M. Nave spoke about the parallels between the University’s recently launched Strategic Plan and the agency’s efforts to help surrounding communities.

“An important part of our strategic plan is leaning into our community responsibility and economic development in this region and ensuring that Alcorn is a leading force in strengthening this region,” said Nave. “We’re stronger together, and as we collaborate, it would ensure that we all rise and that our citizens, students, and community are moving toward a better place. Alcorn is happy that the agency contacted us to participate in this initiative. We welcome this opportunity.”