THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (West Memphis, Arkansas) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release December 10, 1999
December 10, 1999
MEMORANDUM FOR THE SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL THE SECRETARY OF COMMERCE THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE THE SECRETARY OF EDUCATION THE SECRETARY OF ENERGY THE SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES THE SECRETARY OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR THE SECRETARY OF LABOR THE SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION THE SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS THE ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY THE ADMINISTRATOR OF THE SMALL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION SUBJECT: Arkansas Delta Circuit Rider Pilot Project
The Delta region of the United States is rich in historical, archeological, geological, natural, and cultural assets. The Delta region also has tremendous human capital in the people who live there and hold strong hopes for the future. The Delta's human, natural, and cultural resources have the potential to contribute significantly to the region's future.
Despite great progress in a wide range of economic and social areas, the Delta region, particularly the Delta communities of Arkansas, still often lag behind the rest of the country. Substandard housing, inadequate transportation systems, limited access to capital, low educational levels, and lack of adequate health care have hindered progress and caused hardship. While nationwide unemployment levels have fallen during my Administration, the Arkansas Delta communities still suffer from disproportionately high unemployment. Furthermore, in the Delta counties of Arkansas, only 55 percent of the adult population has a high school diploma.
While Governor of Arkansas, I chaired the Lower Mississippi Delta Development Commission. In 1990, the Commission submitted an action plan to address the economic development needs of the region. This action plan has served as a guidepost during my Administration for creating further opportunities for investment in the region.
During my Administration, we have continued to provide resources to the entire Delta region and to the Delta communities of Arkansas to promote job creation, improve transportation and housing, and address environmental needs. In 1998, the Department of Transportation organized a meeting with local Delta leaders at which ten Federal agencies pledged to work together to coordinate a Government-wide review and assessment of the Delta; their review resulted in the recent publication of The Mississippi Delta: Beyond 2000 (Interim Report). My Administration has designated two rural Enterprise Zones (EZ) and seven Enterprise Communities (EC) in the Delta, including two ECs in Arkansas that receive assistance from the Department of Agriculture (USDA) -- one in Mississippi County and one in East Central Arkansas. As part of the EZ/EC program, these communities have engaged in extensive community planning and have gained a number of tax incentives to promote investment opportunities. The USDA provides significant resources to the Delta in grants and loans through its rural housing and business programs. The Department of Commerce has provided over $100 million to the Delta from 1993 to mid-1999. Approximately 1100 low-income Arkansas homes were weatherized last year through Department of Energy funding. The Department of the Interior is assisting in the development of the Arkansas Delta Heritage Trail, a new quasi-State park composed of a 78-mile rail corridor that traverses some of the richest natural and cultural resources of the State. The Department of Transportation has provided approximately $140 million to complete highway reconstruction, surfacing, widening, and other projects in Delta counties. However, Federal funding alone is not sufficient to revitalize the Delta region. As part of my July 1999 "New Markets" trip to Clarksdale, Mississippi, I announced nearly $15 million in new private investments in the Enterprise Corporation for the Delta, a nonprofit organization that uses Federal grants to leverage private investment in business.
Other Federal efforts seek to empower the Delta communities by providing information and assistance directly in the communities where they are needed. The USDA and the Environmental Protection Agency provide significant on-the-ground technical assistance to rural communities nationwide through circuit rider programs for both drinking water and wastewater. The Small Business Administration (SBA) also regularly engages in active outreach activities in the Arkansas Delta Region, where SBA staff meet with small business entrepreneurs in the field. These programs have been very successful in assisting communities and individuals, but have been limited in the number of agencies that participate and the topics that are covered.
To build on the success of these circuit rider programs and to address the great need expressed by Delta communities for technical assistance, I am expanding my Administration's efforts in Arkansas' Delta communities by creating a pilot Arkansas Delta Circuit Rider program to provide, for the first time, a concentrated, coordinated effort by 14 Federal agencies to address needs in areas such as housing, economic development, transportation, environment, tourism, cultural resources, infrastructure technology, education, and health care. The Arkansas Delta Circuit Rider program will bring the expertise and resources of the Federal Government directly to com-munities that need assistance by providing a more integrated Federal response across several agencies and reaching out to the communities to search for solutions. Accord-ingly, I direct each of you to work with the USDA as lead agency in the development of a pilot program to be based on a circuit rider concept with the goals of helping Delta communities (1) systematically identify needs and priorities in economic and community development; (2) draft strategic plans to leverage both private and public resources for such development; and (3) implement their plans. This initiative should forge a coalition of Federal, State, local, private business, non-profit, and other interested parties in meeting the unique needs of each community. The investment of resources by each agency will vary depending on the specific needs of each community but should include providing information; conducting traveling seminars; deploying staff; and staffing regional offices.
I further direct you to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) no later than March 1, 2000, with the specifics of the pilot program, including an implementation framework and schedule; mechanisms to assemble the Circuit Rider team after receiving a community's request for assistance; and details of the types of assistance to be provided. This MOU should establish the Arkansas Delta communities Circuit Rider pilot program for a minimum period of 5 years in order to assist communities in addressing both long-term and short-term needs.
As we look to the new millennium, we should make every effort to ensure that no areas of this country are left behind. This pilot project, taken together and in full coordination with the other resources devoted to community and economic development, will help to build capacity in the communities of the Arkansas Delta and will empower the area's residents to achieve their full potential.
WILLIAM J. CLINTON
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