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Spanning the Region

Wednesday, October 1, 2003

New Mississippi Law Fosters Job Creation in Rural Areas

The Mississippi Rural Impact Act, signed into law this past summer, establishes a $10 million fund for the purpose of creating jobs in rural areas.

The fund will provide grants or loans to rural communities trying to attract business. In turn, the communities will use the fund to guarantee loans to small businesses. The grants could be used by a community to buy land, construct sewers, rehabilitate buildings or construct new buildings.

For information, call the Mississippi Development Authority at (601) 359-3552.

New Center in Kentucky Promotes Affordable Housing

The Kentucky Housing Corp. (KHC) in Frankfort, Ky., recently opened its Center for Affordable Housing Finance, a one-stop resource for builders, organizations and developers of affordable housing.

The center has an open-window funding application process that allows applicants to submit requests for a variety of funds year-round. A series of web pages familiarizes users with the center's funding programs and guides them through the application process. Users can also find forms, documents and information related to managing a project and understanding compliance regulations.

For details, visit or call (502) 564-7630 or 1-800-633-8896 (Kentucky only).

Budding Architects Learn about Affordable Housing

Future architects are learning how to design affordable housing, thanks to a partnership among the University of Kentucky, Frontier Housing Inc. and the Kentucky Housing Corp.

With $300,000 from the housing corporation, the university established the Affordable Housing Design Research Fund and created a professorship in the College of Architecture to teach students affordable housing planning, design and construction.

Earlier this year, students in the program used a new method to design prototype houses for a subdivision being built in Morehead, Ky., by Frontier Housing, a nonprofit organization. The universal design method is a building concept that incorporates products and general design layouts into residences to make them usable by the largest number of people and improve marketability of the residence.

The Kentucky Housing Corp. requires that housing developments that receive 50 percent or more of the total project cost from the housing corporation must meet a list of minimum universal design requirements.

For more information about the program, call the Kentucky Housing Corp. at (502) 564-7630 or 1-800-633-8896 (Kentucky only).

More information about universal design standards is available at under "Technical Resources."

Illinois Links State Deposits to Satisfactory CRA Ratings

Illinois banks that want to receive state deposits must embrace the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) of 1977 or risk losing their designation as depository institutions. The new State Funds Reinvestment Requirement Act states that if a bank is subject to the CRA, it must have a rating of satisfactory or better to be eligible for the deposit of state money. The act also requires the state treasurer to review complaints alleging fair-lending violations by the banks. If it is determined that a bank has violated fair-lending standards, the bank may be removed from the list of state depositories.

The CRA is a federal law that requires federal regulatory agencies to encourage banking institutions to help meet the credit needs of the entire community in which they are chartered to do business, including low-income areas.

Downtown St. Louis Offers Free Wireless Internet Access

The city of St. Louis and a local technology company, 02Connect, have teamed up to provide free wireless Internet access to the public in a 42-square-block area of downtown.

The target audience for the service is people enjoying downtown's outdoor spaces, cafes and parks, said Chris Dornfeld, a spokesman for the mayor's office. The service will allow visitors, business travelers and citizens to access the Internet any time it is convenient and will be the largest free wireless Internet area in the United States, he said.

02Connect is donating antennas and the network equipment as well as Internet access. The city is providing power, access to street signal poles and some help mounting the small antennas.

The first pieces of the network are already operational along the Gateway Mall. The complete network was expected to be up and running by Oct. 1, 2003.