Simmons Bank will sponsor a conference on the future of the Arkansas Delta from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Friday, May 19, at the Pine Bluff Convention Center. Gov. Asa Hutchinson will be the featured luncheon speaker.

Titled “The Arkansas Delta: Why It Still Matters,” the conference is designed to help community leaders network with each other and discuss how to deal with a declining population base.

This is the second year for Simmons, which has called Pine Bluff home since it was founded in 1903, to sponsor the conference. All 135 members of the Arkansas Legislature, county officials and city officials have been invited to attend.

The co-chairmen for the Delta conference are Raymond Abramson of Holly Grove and Ritter Arnold of Marked Tree.

In addition to the governor, speakers will include:

• Chancellor Laurence Alexander of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, who will discuss the importance of higher education in the Delta.

• Mike Preston, the executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, who will speak on economic development strategies for the region.

• Randy Zook, a Delta native who now heads the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce.

• Robert Moore Jr. of Arkansas City, a member of the Arkansas Highway Commission and a longtime Delta advocate.

• Fitz Hill, former president of Arkansas Baptist College, who will speak on the importance of mentors for Delta youth.

• Shane Speights, the site dean for the College of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State University at Jonesboro, who will talk about the need for more doctors in the Delta.

• Kane Webb, the executive director of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, who will speak about efforts to increase Delta tourism.

• Scott Simon, the director of the Nature Conservancy’s Arkansas chapter, who will discuss conservation efforts in the region.

• Ruth Hawkins, director of the Arkansas State University Heritage Sites program, who will talk about Delta heritage and how it can tie into economic development.

A catfish lunch will be served. There’s no registration fee, but those planning to attend are required to register in advance at