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Delta leaders visiting Greenville

The City of Greenville will play host to the Delta Leadership Institute Executive Academy on Monday and Tuesday. (Courtesy photo)

The City of Greenville will play host to the Delta Leadership Institute Executive Academy on Monday and Tuesday. (Courtesy photo)

Dozens of leaders from the Delta region will be in the Camellia City Monday to explore culture and tourism as economic development.

The City of Greenville will play host to the Delta Leadership Institute Executive Academy.

The Delta Leadership Institute organizes the Delta Leadership Institute Executive Academy, a year-long leadership development program for regional leaders that prepares them to collaborate and address the most-pressing issues of the Delta region — an area characterized by high poverty, high unemployment levels, low educational attainment, and a loss of skilled labor. Each of the eight governors and the federal co-chairman nominate community leaders for the program, resulting in an annual class of 50 Delta leaders.

The Delta Leadership Institute is designed to improve the decisions made by leaders across the region by strengthening leadership capacity and mutual understanding of regional, state, and local cultures and issues.

“The Delta Regional Authority is a unique federal entity that works closely with local, state and other federal partners to invest in the infrastructure, workforce and businesses that help drive the local economies of its eight-state footprint,” said Chris Masingill, federal co-chairman of Delta Regional Authority. “In just the 14 years that DRA has been making these strategic investments, projects we’ve invested in have helped to create more than 26,000 jobs, train 7,000 individuals, and improve water and sewer services for nearly 65,000 families. Our investments have also helped bring nearly $3 billion in other public and private investment to the region. These kinds of outcomes and leveraged dollars are helping families obtain jobs and economic opportunities that may not have existed before. It’s a slow process, but through these investments and by training a corps of skilled, knowledgeable, and interconnected leaders that can bring new, innovative ideas to their communities, we are helping communities move forward and compete for valuable jobs and investments that help them support themselves.”

That’s one of the reasons Greenville Mayor Dexter McLendon is so excited to have the Executive Academy visiting Greenville.

“These are people that really try to help communities, and create a better quality of life for the people in your city,” he said. “They are very interested in helping create jobs and securing grants that will benefit the community.”

McLendon said the Delta Regional Authority was instrumental in securing a $500,000 grant to assist with site preparations when the city was recruiting Hwashin America Co. to Greenville. Hwashin is now the largest employer in the city.

Monday’s visit will be the first to the Camellia City for a Delta Leadership Institute Executive Academy class since its founding in 2005.

“We have hosted sessions in Alabama a number of times, but this is our first time in Greenville,” said Amanda Richardson, director of the Delta Leadership Institute. “While there are a few cities within our region that are optimal sites for hosting our sessions every year, we also try to rotate two of the sessions between more rural cities throughout the region. For this session’s focus on tourism as economic development, Greenville is a great place in the middle of some great tourism assets that the Alabama Black Belt has to offer, with a strong cultural heritage and history along with easy access to Selma, Camden, and Monroeville, other strong centers of tourism in the region that we are visiting. It also is a prime location for lodging within a short drive of the capital in Montgomery and its airport as well as the hub of south Alabama in Mobile.”

During next week’s session, Academy fellows will focus on Culture and Tourism as Economic Development.

“The Delta Regional Authority recognizes the important role that tourism plays in the economic development of the Delta region and its local economies,” said Richardson. “We will visit Cambrian Ridge in Greenville, as well as the Monroe County Courthouse in Monroeville, the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, and Black Belt Treasures and Gee’s Bend in Camden.  We will spend time as a group discussing challenges and opportunities that our Delta communities face in creating economic opportunities for its citizens, attracting and retaining businesses, and building the infrastructure Delta communities need to compete for jobs. The session will highlight for class members an array of projects and initiatives throughout the region that support a growing industry of culture and tourism.”

This year’s Academy began in October with an orientation session in Memphis, Tenn. The class has since met in Vicksburg, Miss., and New Orleans. Next month the Academy fellows will meet in Washington, D.C., for their session on Policy and Governance.