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Office of the Vice President

For Immediate Release April 16, 1998

New Orleans, LA -- In what he called an effort to increase the pace of economic development in the Mississippi Delta region, Vice President Gore announced a major initiative by two of the region's leading community development organizations to combat the Delta's chronic poverty.

The new initiative -- the Delta Regional Initiative -- is a combined effort of the Southern Empowerment Zone and Enterprise Community Forum and the Lower Mississippi Delta Development Commission.

Working together, these two organizations will have more resources to break the cycle of persistent poverty and high unemployment rates that have plagued this area for generations, Vice President Gore said.

This reinvigorated effort, Gore said, will forge a more effective engine of change by combining the expertise and resources of an organization specializing in local, community-specific action plans -- the Southern Empowerment Zone and Enterprise Community Forum -- with one that works on a broad-scale using a regional approach -- the Lower Mississippi Delta Development Commission.

Vice President Gore also presided at a ceremony at which the two organizations signed articles of incorporation to create the Delta Regional Initiative. The new entity will be able to better channel federal funds and technical help available to Rural and Urban Empowerment Zones and Enterprise Communities in seven states: Arkansas, Louisiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee.

Decisions on how to utilize funds have not been made but, if Congress provides for the funds, they will go to targeted economic development assistance to the counties and communities in the lower Mississippi region.

The effort is modeled after the Administration's Southwest Border Regional Initiative, launched last year to better focus resources on efforts to improve the quality of life in the impoverished rural communities along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Vice President Gore also called on Congress to fund the Administration's proposal for $26 million to support Delta-related rural development projects.

With this initiative, he said, I believe we will improve the quality of life for the people of the Delta in such areas as health care, education, housing, agriculture, and natural resources, business development and the environment.