Thursday, September 8

SU Ag Center Holds Focus Group with Waterproof, La. Residents

Study seeks to assist rural communities with economic wealth creation
Tiffany Franklin, Ph.D., hands information to attendees during a Sept. 1 focus group meeting in the town hall of Waterproof, La.  

Baton Rouge, LA – Extension and research professionals from the Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center (SU Ag Center) hosted a focus group with the concerned citizens of Waterproof, La. on September 1, 2016, in the cities town hall.

The meeting, which sought to gather a range of ideas, insights or solutions to support economic development of communities throughout the state of Louisiana, is a new University-Community Engagement project to improve the quality of life of residents. The SU Ag Center has named this project, ‘Integrated Methods of Economic Development Analysis in Economically Distressed Communities in Louisiana.’

The Town of Waterproof was selected for the project because of its dire need for additional resources to revive its housing, education, employment, and community engagement.  The town is located in Tensas parish, along the Mississippi River. The parish is also home for some historic sites, which include Winter Quarters in Newellton, La. and Lake Bruin State Park in St. Joseph, La. 

The meeting was facilitated by SU Ag Center’s Ben Lukongo, Ph.D., the Project’s Director, with assistance from Co-Project Directors Kenyetta Nelson-Smith, Ph.D. and Tiffany Franklin, Ph.D., who is also a native of Waterproof. Eual Hall, Business Development Specialist at the SU Ag’s Center for Rural and Small Business Development, also provided valuable handouts to attendees that will assist them with small business development.

“Our team is excited to obtain ideas from you, listen to your stories and experiences, take into consideration your input, discuss and co-create the future vision of your community, collaborate to improve your community, identify issues that need more research and actions, and discuss alternative solutions, realistic plans, resources, and assets needed to better your community,” said Lukongo during the meeting.

The group, which included the town’s Mayor Caldwell Flood; Chief of Police Valerie Clark; Alderwoman Veronica Stacker and retired educator Mary Frances Earl, was eager to share their personal experiences about living in Waterproof and how they can make improvements that will bring attention to the town and attract tourist.  Alderwoman Stacker noted that this will require assistance from outside entities such as local, state, and federal agencies.

As an incentive for attending, eligible participants will receive a $25 gift card.  Lukongo will review the focus group responses and provide a detailed report of the findings. 

This project provides an excellent opportunity for citizens in rural areas across the state to share their vision of restoration for their small communities that once thrived with a larger population and business owners. 

For more information on how to get your community involved with this study, contact Ben Lukongo at 225-771-5385, Kenyetta Nelson-Smith at 225-771-5598 or Tiffany Wilkerson-Franklin at 225-771-2775.


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