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The Mississippi Delta region has an important place in American cultural history; it’s known as the home of the blues. Unfortunately, people who live in one of the 18 counties of the region might be able to tell you exactly why Delta natives sing the blues.

The region has one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates and – especially in the current recession – it is faces concentrated poverty, according to a report from the Community Affairs Offices of the Federal Reserve System and the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution.

The Southern Bancorp has been working to transform the communities of the region as part of its broader mission to increase economic opportunity, reduce poverty, and improve educational opportunities in rural America.

Now, the Kellogg Foundation has partnered with the rural development bank to help them achieve their goal of reducing the unemployment rate in the Delta region. The foundation recently gave $11 million for the firm to invest in the underserved rural community.

The investment includes $5 million to fuel growth in specific community-targeted programs and $6 million to strengthen Southern Bancorp’s overall operations. Phil Baldwin, president and CEO of Southern Bancorp, says the Kellogg funds will be “transformational” for Southern Bancorp.

Officials at the Kellogg Foundation say that Southern Bancorp is an “ideal partner” for them as well, as they are looking to get more involved in urban revitalization.

“Our mission-driven investment program is designed to identify and infuse capital into high potential companies that can achieve social change consistent with our core mission statement, while providing attractive financial returns that will grow our endowment over time,” said Sterling Speirn, president and CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.