CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo.,
May 25, 2007 – Southeast Missouri State University President Kenneth W. Dobbins joins the Mississippi Delta Grassroots Caucus in commending U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO) and the Energy and Water appropriations subcommittee in the U.S. House of Representatives for approving the budget of the Delta Regional Authority (DRA).
“This is an essential action in assuring that the DRA continues its important economic development activities for southeast Missouri and the rest of the region,” Dobbins said.Lee Powell, director of the Caucus, says “The Grassroots Caucus appreciates the great work of Congresswoman Emerson, who is a key member of this appropriations subcommittee, which voted for $6 million for the DRA budget in the main source of funding for economic development commissions, located in the energy and water appropriations bill.”
Dobbins said, “Southeast Missouri State University is a strong supporter of the Delta Caucus’ activities in promoting economic development. Congresswoman Emerson does a great job of going to bat for the needs of southeast Missouri, including her support for the Delta Regional Authority and many other issues that are important in building a brighter economic future for the Missouri Delta.
“In recent years, the Senate has voted for twice the amount voted by the House, and in conference, the Senate figure has passed. So we are on target for this result again this year,” Powell said. “This continues the trend for a larger DRA budget, which had declined to $5 million only a few years ago, with President Bush’s request at one point declining all the way down to $2 million. For the last couple of years the Bush administration increased its budget request up to $6 million, and the Congress doubled that amount to $12 million, with Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) playing key roles in the increase.”
Dr. Martha Ellen Black, Missouri coordinator for the Caucus, said “It was wonderful in Washington, D.C., to see Congresswoman Emerson working in such a cooperative, bipartisan spirit with Senators Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Rep. Charles Melancon (D-LA), Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), and other national leaders in promoting economic development in southeast Missouri and throughout the region.”
Powell emphasized that “The fundamental issue regarding the DRA is that its budget is still much too small, and we must work diligently to expand it. We remain concerned that other regional economic development commissions in Appalachia and the Denali Commission in Alaska in recent years have been receiving vastly greater budgets in the range of $65 to $67 million annually, while the DRA has only advanced to a range of $12 to $15 million, and there is no rational justification for this disparity among the regions,” Powell said.
Despite this small budget, in only five years, the DRA has leveraged $48.5 million in federal funding to obtain $213 million in other federal funds and $493.4 million in private sector funds, for a total investment of $754.9 million, leading to outcomes of over 31,000 jobs created and/or retained, over 24,000 families with new water or sewer service, and over 6,200 people who received job training in their local area. The Delta Doctors Program–which is remarkable in that it is administered without any additional appropriations–has led to the placement of more than 55 doctors in underserved areas in the region who would not be there without this DRA program.
For the 29 DRA counties in southeast Missouri, the DRA invested $5.8 million in federal funds and leveraged this amount to include another $24.2 million in funding from other government agencies, plus another $6.3 million from the private sector for a total investment of $36.3 million in its short five-year history. This led to outcomes of 1,280 jobs created, 2,919 jobs retained, over 440 people who received job training, and over 1,300 families with new water or sewer service.
“We recognize that much more remains to be done, and these contributions are relatively small in comparison to the overall problems of southeast Missouri and the rest of the region, but we are headed in the right direction, and as the DRA grows, its positive impact will grow. So we greatly appreciate Rep. Emerson’s support for the DRA,” Powell said. “The DRA is still a very new agency, and it will continue to grow and improve with the aid and input from regional leaders at the local, state and federal levels.”