Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Online registration still open for DRA conference




Contact DRADelta Regional Authority Homepage

 

June 11, 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT REX NELSON
(501) 686-6188

Online registration is still open for the Delta Regional Authority annual conference. The conference will be held June 23-25 at the Ritz-Carlton in downtown New Orleans. Registration is free. Those wanting to attend the conference should go to www.dra.gov.

Those desiring rooms at the Ritz-Carlton should call 1-800-826-8987 and mention they're attending the DRA event.

Political expert Michael Barone and noted author Rick Bragg will be among the featured speakers at the three-day gathering of Delta leaders. The conference, with the theme of "Reimagining The Delta," is expected to attract several hundred business and government leaders from across the eight-state DRA region.

For additional information, call Sissy Kidd at (501) 686-6195.

"If there's a more astute observer of contemporary American politics than Michael Barone, I'm not sure who it is," said Pete Johnson of Clarksdale, Miss., the DRA's federal co-chairman. "In this remarkable election year, when the world is watching to see which candidate the people of the United States select as their next president, we're fortunate to have Michael join us. He's part of an all-star lineup for this conference."

Barone is the principal author every two years of "The Almanac of American Politics." He's also a regular commentator for Fox News and a senior writer for U.S. News & World Report. Barone will discuss the presidential race and the role played by the eight DRA states.

Barone received his bachelor's degree from Harvard University in 1966 and his law degree from the Yale University Law School three years later. He was editor of both the Harvard Crimson and the Yale Law Journal. From 1974-81, Barone was a vice president of Peter D. Hart Research Associates, one of the nation's leading opinion research firms. He was a member of the editorial board of The Washington Post from 1981-88. Barone wrote for U.S. News & World Report from 1989-96, joining Reader's Digest as a senior staff editor for two years before rejoining U.S. News & World Report in 1998.

Bragg, meanwhile, is recognized as one of the greatest contemporary Southern storytellers. The Alabama native won the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing in 1996 for his work at The New York Times.

"Rick has taken the oral storytelling style of his family in the hills of north Alabama and turned it into his own distinctive form of writing and speaking," Johnson said. "You will find Rick entertaining and informative."

Bragg has received more than 50 writing awards during the past two decades, including the American Society of Newspaper Editors' Distinguished Writing Award twice. In his first book, "All Over but the Shoutin'," Bragg told the story of his mother, who overcame the abuse of an alcoholic husband. The book was selected as one of the best books of the year by several organizations and became a sort of anthem for poor working people across the South.

The second book in the Bragg trilogy was "Ava's Man," the story of his mother's father, Charlie Bundrum, who was a poacher, roofer and whiskey maker. One reviewer described the book as a "powerfully intimate piece of American history as it was experienced by the working people of the Deep South, a glorious record of a life of character, tenacity and indomitable joy, and an unforgettable tribute to a vanishing culture."

The recently released third book in the trilogy is "The Prince of Frogtown." The book is based on Bragg's relationship with his 10-year-old stepson. Bragg will sign copies of the book following his June 24 luncheon speech.

The conference will begin at 1 p.m. on Monday, June 23, with a technical assistance workshop. The four-hour workshop will be held in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Health Resources and Services Administration. The workshop is designed to make participants aware of the funding opportunities and other resources available to rural communities.

Johnson will speak at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, June 24, on the state of the Delta and the work of the DRA. At 9:30 a.m. on June 24, Ron Crouch of the University of Louisville will speak on the changing demographic face of the Delta. Crouch is the director of the university's Kentucky State Data Center. He will discuss how the population of the region is aging, becoming more diverse and moving from a manufacturing base to the knowledge-based economy.

At 11 a.m. on June 24, Jon Roberts of TIP Strategies Inc. of Austin, Texas, will speak on the vision for the Delta in the new century. Roberts is a nationally recognized consultant in the areas of strategic planning and redevelopment analysis. TIP Strategies is helping the DRA board create a strategic development plan for the 240 counties and parishes it serves.

Bragg will speak at lunch June 24, and Barone will speak at 2:15 p.m. that day. A reception for conference participants will be held from 5 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. on June 24. On Wednesday, June 25, a continental breakfast for conference participants will be held from 8:30 a.m. until 9 a.m. The meals and reception are part of the free registration at www.dra.gov.

"The afternoon reception and the breakfast the next morning will provide an opportunity for people from across our region to visit, renew old friendships, make new friends, compare notes and discuss the Delta," Johnson said.

At 9 a.m. on June 25, Sean Cummings will speak on the future of New Orleans. Cummings is the president of a real estate development firm that has created lofts and boutique hotels that mix historic architecture with the city's unique culture. Cummings also serves as the chief executive officer of the New Orleans Building Corp. In that role, he recently signed a deal with a New York company to redevelop the World Trade Center of New Orleans as a mixed-used project.

At 10:30 a.m. on June 25, Nicolas Perkin of the New Orleans Receivables Exchange will speak on how to keep talent in the region. Perkin brings extensive management and analytical experience to the exchange. Cummings and Perkin are among the region's most talented young entrepreneurs.

"Both of the speakers on the final day will show us how entrepreneurship can be part of the economic salvation of the Delta," Johnson said. "This promises to be our best conference yet. I hope people will go to www.dra.gov to register."

The DRA is a federal-state partnership that covers parts of Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee. Johnson serves on the DRA board with the governors of the eight states. Gov. Bob Riley of Alabama is the state co-chairman.

The DRA operates a highly successful grant program in each of the eight states. This program allows cash-strapped cities and counties to leverage money from other agencies. The DRA also has expanded its regional initiatives in the areas of leadership development, transportation, health care and information technology.

 


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