OVER 50 Years of Service to Local Governments
The ten Planning and Development Districts in Mississippi were created to assist local governments in the late 1960s in an attempt to address problems and issues on a multi–jurisdictional basis. In creating these organizations, technical assistance was provided by the then Office of Federal State Programs under the administration of Governor John Bell Williams, as well as other business development organizations. There were also federal matching grant incentives to the Districts, as well as to the local governments, if they met and maintained certain eligibility criteria, especially in the area of economic development. In 1971, in an effort to standardize regional economic development and planning boundaries, Governor Williams issued Executive Order 81, designating the Planning and Development Districts as Mississippi’s official sub-state regions. This order also designated the Districts as the agencies to help ensure that projects and programs within the respective regions were developed according to a long range, continuous planning process. While largely voluntary, the Districts were given the responsibility to increase information and coordination, therefore eliminating duplication and waste.
Each Planning and Development District is an independent organization governed by a Board of Directors appointed by local leadership. The Governing Board of a District is composed of members from each county who are appointed by local officials. These appointments are comprised of elected local officials, business or industrial leaders, and representatives of the minority community.
Most Districts operate through an active committee system which may involve many other persons, not necessarily members of the Board of Directors. The Districts are managed by an Executive Director who is responsible to the Board of Directors, and the Districts are staffed not only by administrative and clerical personnel, but also by specialists in such areas as planning, geographic information systems, economic development, community development, grant writing, job training, social services, transportation, data processing, and gerontology.
Programs and Services
Since each District represents a distinctly different region of the state, its activities, projects, and programs are somewhat different. There are, however, many common functions provided in a very similar manner by each District.
One of the principal functions of each Planning and Development District is economic development. Each District is designated by either the Economic Development Administration of the Department of Commerce or the Appalachian Regional Commission as the federally recognized organization to perform economic development, planning, and other related functions. The USDA Rural Development Administration is another major source of economic development assistance and most recently, the Delta Regional Authority was created using the same sub-state structure. Unlike some organizations which view economic development in a limited or specific manner, the Districts attempt to promote long-term job creation in the broadest sense.
Each District develops annually a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy which is essential in maintaining eligibility for various federally funded programs. These programs primarily aid local communities with such public facilities as streets, water and sewer systems, and other infrastructure necessary to promote business and industrial growth. The vast majority of industrial parks in this state were developed with some form of federal assistance provided through Planning and Development Districts. Maintaining eligibility for funding also provides an opportunity to receive technical assistance grants and various types of loans.
While they may vary from region to region, there are numerous other economic development activities provided by the Districts. For example, the Districts provide statistical and economic information and analysis to potential business and industrial ventures. They also furnish information and assistance to cities and counties to aid them in being competitive and in building capacity so they can assist with economic growth. The Planning and Development Districts were the first organizations in Mississippi to integrate geographic information systems into their routine data management and mapping procedures.
All Districts have an active Revolving Loan Program. This program consists of grants, made to the Districts through a variety of federal agencies, to be loaned (usually in conjunction with other public or private financing) to businesses and industries to help in start ups or expansions. These loans are made at very attractive rates and when they are repaid, the funds are then loaned again to other businesses for commercial and/or industrial development activities. The money, therefore, stays in the area and continues to be a very viable economic development tool.
Another loan program available to the Planning and Development Districts is the Small Business Administration 504 Loan Program. Each District, acting as a Certified Development Company or acting through another Certified Development Company, is authorized to make loans (for a period of time not to exceed 20 years) to small businesses for land, buildings, and other fixed assets. These loans also are designed to create jobs and to stimulate business growth and are made in conjunction with private lending institutions which assume responsibility for approximately half the amount loaned. These loans have fixed and attractive rates, and the District’s portion is guaranteed by the Small Business Administration in the event of default. Other loan programs available through the State of Mississippi include the Mississippi Minority Business Enterprise Loan Program and the Mississippi Small Business Assistance Loan Program. The former is specifically for minority owned businesses, including females, and the latter is for any Mississippi owned small business.
Community development is an additional area in which most Districts are very involved. The Community Development Block Grant Program is funded through the Department of Housing and Urban Development and administered by the Mississippi Development Authority. This is a very competitive program that funds various types of public facilities, economic development, and housing activities. Most Districts provide technical assistance to their cities and counties to help them select projects, prepare applications, and further document needs. Many Districts also are active at varying levels in actually administering projects and programs once they are funded. Moreover, the Districts sometimes assist communities with loans and grants through the USDA Rural Development Administration, with the development of parks through the Department of Interior, the development of trails through the Federal Highway Administration, both parks and trails grant programs are administered by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, small municipalities and limited population counties grants, and small grants to rural volunteer fire departments.
In addition to providing federal and state financial aid for community development, the Districts offer varying types of technical assistance to help governments provide better management. Aid is available in such areas as personnel administration, financial management, budgeting, and capital improvements. Many Districts have computerized demographic analysis capabilities which they use to assist with the redistricting of political subdivisions. Also, computer mapping and geographic information systems are provided in some areas. Certain Districts have extensive involvement with technology communication systems, which further expand computer networks. If a District does not have the specific expertise on staff, it can link its local community with the proper person in state or federal government, or the District might possibly work with another District in a joint venture.
In varying capacities, the Districts provide communities with local and regional planning assistance. Maintenance of a regional planning process is a federal requirement for some programs, and the Districts maintain this process to insure eligibility for their local areas. Certain areas of the state are more active in planning and growth management than other areas depending on the level of expertise at each District. For example, in metropolitan areas which receive federal funding for transportation, a metropolitan planning process is required. In these areas, the District administers this process and requires that all state and federal construction dollars are expended in accordance with the plans developed by the District and approved by the local governments representing the area.
Another example of a District’s involvement in local planning is the preparation of comprehensive plans for cities and counties. Many Districts prepare and administer zoning ordinances and subdivision regulations for their various communities.
Human Resource Development
Another area in which the Districts are increasingly involved is human resource development. It is generally felt that improving physical resources is of little value if it does not benefit human development. One of the major aspects of human resource development, which has significant economic development implications, is job training. Multi-county regions, as required as part of the Workforce Investment Act, include the Planning and Development Districts. The Districts are active in assessing the needs of their respective areas, developing annual training plans, and assisting in funding activities to carry out these plans. This program is funded through the Department of Labor and administered through the Mississippi Department of Employment Security. The business and industrial community provides significant input into the local planning process.
Another major program in this area relates to the elderly. Acting as the Area Agencies on Aging, the Districts provide an annual areawide plan which directs where federal dollars for the elderly are to be spent for the upcoming year. This plan is based upon needs assessments, demographics, national priorities, and input from the public. Once the plan is adopted, it directs the comprehensive aging activities in its service area for the next year. Traditional activities funded under this plan include congregate and home delivered meals, information and referral services, long-term care programs, and elder abuse prevention services.
In recent years, major efforts have been made to keep the elderly active in their own homes. As a result, there are various support programs available to assist with this endeavor. These include homemaker and care service programs, adult day care, employment opportunities, transportation programs and case management, as well as other long-term community based activities. One of the most important aspects is the use of the federal Medicaid Waiver program for long-term community based care, which allows patients to stay in their homes versus entering a nursing home. Medicaid payments are used to secure these services for the home-bound patient while saving money and providing a higher quality of life. Recognizing that it is not possible for all the elderly to remain in their homes, all Districts have ombudsman programs providing trained professionals who call on patients in nursing homes.
Activities of the Districts have changed significantly over the past five decades and these changes are expected to continue as the Districts reflect the needs and issues of their respective regions. The future of the Planning and Development Districts appears bright, because of their diversity and flexible nature. The Districts use business practices in providing regional, governmental functions. This makes them very diverse organizations responsible for programs ranging from meals on wheels to major infrastructure construction.
Planning & Development Districts Services
Appalachian Regional Commission
Community Development Block Grant
Delta Regional Authority
Department of Justice
Department of Environmental Quality
Department of Public Safety
Department of Wildlife Fisheries & Parks
Economic Development Administration
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Home Investment Partnership Program
USDA Rural Development
Mississippi Development Authority
Solid Waste Management
Appalachian Regional Commission
Economic Development Administration
Capital Improvements (CAP Loan)
Community Development Block Grant
Minority Business Enterprise
USDA Rural Development
Small Business Assistance
US Small Business Administration
Census Data Affiliate
Demographic Data Center
Geographic Information Systems
Solid Waste Billing
Web Site Design and Hosting
Job Search Skills Training
WIN Job Centers
AREA AGENCY ON AGING
Adult Day Care
Aging Resource Center
Chronic Disease and Self Management Program
Congregate and Home Delivered Meals
Elder Abuse Prevention
Fall Prevention Program
Information, Referral, and Outreach
Mississippi Access to Care
Senior Employment Services
MEDICAID WAIVER PROGRAM
Bridge to Independence
Home and Community Based Services