Local leaders Jack Hill and Joe Webb have been tasked with spearheading the process to develop a strategic plan for the Coahoma County community through engaging grassroots involvement.

Hill said that he and Webb are “humbled and honored” to serve as co-chairs during the planning phase of the initiative.

This new plan came out of a meeting called by District 26 State Rep. Chuck Espy on Aug. 13 to address the impact of Delta Wire leaving Clarksdale.

Pete Johnson, Delta Regional Authority Federal Co-chairman, said at the meeting, “For us to sit here and think we are not on the road to extinction we are kidding ourselves. We are looking at a 40 — year trend (population decline) in rural America and it seems nothing is going to change that trend.”

According to Hill, Chief Executive Officer of Northwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center (NWMRMC), several business leaders gathered after the meeting and discussed putting together an initiative to address the declining population in Coahoma County and how a comprehensive plan is needed to build up the community. The number of people and entities who desire to be a part of this new initiative is growing daily.

Hill and Webb, Chief Operating Officer for NWMRMC, expressed that they want Coahoma County citizens from all groups and areas of the community to have input in the initiative. They would like to see grassroots input to guide the strategic plan in addressing factors that might be keeping Coahoma County from being more successful. Members from the public, education, non-profit, religious, business, industrial, and service sectors are invited to assist in the first year’s strategic planning developmental phase, and then later in the implementation phase.

Though city, county, business, and church leaders are getting on board with the strategic plan initiative, according to Webb, “This is not a political initiative. We want grassroots input based on community needs to drive our planning.” Hill and Webb will be organizing different sub-committees to help with planning.

Hill and Webb agree that there are no sacred cows; that everything is on the table and the strategic plan is for the good of the community. The initiative is being supported by several foundations, including the Walton Foundation, Southern Bancorp Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, and the Kellogg Foundation.

Southern Bancorp is considered the key player in this initiative. They are a community development financial institution (CDFI) holding company, which is committed to helping transform rural economies through innovative investments in people, jobs, businesses and property. They have been successful doing similar work in Phillips County, Arkansas. Webb said, “We hope to benchmark on their success in Phillips County.”