LITTLE ROCK — Communities in the Mississippi River Delta must work together to promote economic development and growth throughout the region, the co-chairman of the Delta Regional Authority said Monday.

LITTLE ROCK — Communities in the Mississippi River Delta must work together to promote economic development and growth throughout the region, the co-chairman of the Delta Regional Authority said Monday.

Chris Masingill spoke to a crowd of about 200 attending a DRA policy conference in Little Rock. The conference began Sunday at the Statehouse Convention Center and wraps up today.

“All ideas and partnerships are on the table,” Masingill told the crowd while discussing the DRA’s role in encouraging economic development in the most economically depressed region in the nation.

“We will identify new ways to get new resources to our business owners so they can do what they do best, grow the economy and create good paying jobs,” he said, noting that from 2001-2009 the number of small businesses in the Delta increased by more than 26 percent.

“Two out of every five jobs in the Delta region are created by micro-enterprises,” he said. “Today, many of them are poised to grow.”

Masingill, who was introduced by former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater, a native of Marianna, urged Delta leaders to take advantage of the DRA, which along with representing the region in Washington also offers funding for economic development.

“If you are a small-town mayor or rural chamber of commerce looking to invest in your community, we offer a powerful tool,” he said. “In may cases, our flexibility, particularly in the funding category, is the difference between getting a project up and running or leaving it on the side of the road.”

But Masingill cautioned: “Government does not create jobs, and spending alone is not the solution to our challenges. None of us alone can solve these problems.”

He said communities within the Delta must work together to promote their common needs.

“Building regional partnerships, identifying regional advantages and creating climates of opportunity, I believe it is the most powerful blueprint for the Delta to compete today and be strong for the years to come,” he said.

Masingill said everyone will lose if communities in the region have a “go-it-alone attitude.”

“We can win if we work together,” he said. “Gone are the days when every town could build its own water treatment plant facility, for example. Instead, we need to be thinking about less expensive and other ways to partner, regional solutions to these regional challenges.”

In response to a question, Masingill said the DRA has approached Google about the possibility of using the Delta region as a test market for its new high-speed broadband network.

“They’re using pilot programs all over the country,” he said. “When I see these things happening, the first thing that pops up on my radar screen is I say, ‘look, we have got to get an audience with these leaders in the business community to say, when you’re think about communities to try these ideas, come here, come to the Delta region … we can make that happen.”

Masingill said Google Fiber “is really a real opportunity for us to do some connectivity.”

Slater said the Delta “is facing difficult economic times” and praised the DRA for its work to improve the region.

“This conference brings us together to look at this particular region, to look at its challenges and to examine how we can improve out economic prospects in the years to come,” Slater said.

In the last decade, the DRA “has a done a tremendous job of coordinating the activities of the federal government working in partnership with the state governments of the region,” Slater said.