LITTLE ROCK — The co-chairman of the Delta Regional Authority said Thursday that job creation is the goal of a $15 million multi-agency incentive program now under way in poorer regions of the country, including eastern Arkansas.

LITTLE ROCK — The co-chairman of the Delta Regional Authority said Thursday that job creation is the goal of a $15 million multi-agency incentive program now under way in poorer regions of the country, including eastern Arkansas.

“A strong rural economy is a stronger America,” said Chris Masingill. “The announcement to support $15 million in investments is exactly what Delta families need.”

The program, known as the Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator, is funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Delta Regional Authority and the Appalachian Regional Commission.

Masingill said the DRA committed $500,000 to the program and the organization’s goal is to “focus on being able to identify and train, provide technical assistance for our rural entrepreneurs and for small businesses in the region.”

The DRA provides economic development assistance to 252 counties in eight states along the southern Mississippi River, including 36 counties in Arkansas.

“We can … try to help establish new business support centers and help create new rural business opportunities,” Masingill said during a telephone conference call.

The program is expected to give out about 20 awards, depending on the number of eligible applications, he said.

The projects must benefit rural communities, he said, adding that the applicant is not required to be located in a rural area.

Masingill said nonprofits, higher education institutions, tribes and state and local governments can collaborate to apply for funding, which could be as high as $1 million.

Although businesses are not eligible to apply directly, applicants can partner with the private sector in developing their proposal, he said. The deadline to apply is May 9.

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On the Net:

http://www.dra.gov/econom-devel/accelerator.aspx