Southern Financial Partners presented the Delta Bridge Project at the Northwest Area Foundation’s Grassroots and Groundwork 2006 Conference in St. Paul, Minnesota, this past September. It was one of nineteen projects presented at the national conference that highlighted what communities are doing to get out and stay out of poverty.
The Delta Bridge Project is a comprehensive, targeted geographic approach to community and economic development in Phillips County, an Arkansas Delta county with a population of 25,000. Southern Financial Partners worked with the Walton Family Foundation to pilot a new approach to development in the Delta and integrated and coordinated local development programs that linked them to foundation, state, regional and federal resources for the Delta.
The project steering committee formed in January 2004 and more than 300 citizens representing government, community stakeholders, community organizations and resource partners participated in the project planning. Six teams were formed to focus on economic development, education, housing, health care, leadership development and tourism, recreation and quality of life. Each team developed strategic goals and action plans that could be included in an overall strategic plan for community and economic development. The teams created 36 strategic goals and 96 action steps that are at some level of implementation.
The strategic plan drives the community development process and an infrastructure was created to make the Delta Bridge Project sustainable and community driven. Development projects and activities that are underway include the sweet potato storage and distribution facility, a biodiesel feasibility study, city beautification and cleanup, Southern Place apartments, expansion of KIPP charter school and the Delta Area Health Education Center.