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Spanning the Region

Saturday, January 1, 2005

Blueprint Outlines 10-Year Plan for a Better Mississippi

Dozens of research reports and nearly 1,000 participants paved the road to a new private initiative created to move Mississippi's economy forward. Blueprint Mississippi, born out of meetings held throughout the state from December 2003 to March 2004, was crafted by state business and higher education leaders and the Mississippi Economic Council. It is a 10-year business plan to create a competitive national and global business climate and enhance the state's workforce and education systems.

The core goals strive to strengthen the state's business image; improve the legal atmosphere; enhance the preparedness of children for school; maximize high school graduation rates; diversify the state's economic base; train and retain teachers; increase lifelong learning and employment training opportunities; and use business models and financial indicators for global marketing.

The initiative, which encourages joint participation in the private, public, academic and nonprofit sectors, led Mississippi's governor to launch Momentum Mississippi, a plan for economic growth guided by a broad-based governor-appointed advisory board. Anthony Topazi, president of Blueprint Mississippi, will also head the Momentum project that will initially focus on Blueprint Mississippi's recommendations. For more information, contact the Mississippi Economic Council at (601) 969-0022 or visit

Toll-Free Indiana Helpline Assists People with Mortgage Problems

Current and potential homeowners in Indiana have a new toll-free phone number to call for information about how mortgages work and how to avoid foreclosure. The Mortgage and Foreclosure Helpline number (1-866-722-9248) helps new home buyers and current homeowners who are refinancing their home understand the loan documents. It also provides information for homeowners facing foreclosure. Particularly at risk are those caught in predatory lending situations.

The helpline is the result of a partnership between Momentive Consumer Credit Counseling Service and Congresswoman Julia Carson with support from the Fannie Mae Indiana Partnership Office and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Arkansas CDFI Wins Award for Work in Impoverished Areas

Southern Development Bancorporation was one of four financial institutions in the United States to receive the 2004 Wachovia Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) Excellence Award.

The award was presented Nov. 4 in Chicago in conjunction with a conference sponsored by the National Community Capital Association. It recognizes the CDFI's work in investing in impoverished areas, primarily in the Arkansas and Mississippi Delta.

The award is given in four categories: advocacy, community impact, financial performance and innovation. Southern Development Bancorporation received the award for financial performance.

In 2004, Southern Development Bancorporation invested approximately $160 million in communities located primarily in the Delta to stimulate housing, health care, education, leadership training and financial literacy.

With $500 million in assets, Southern Development Bancorporation is the largest rural development banking organization in the United States. Offices are located in Arkadelphia, Helena, Clarendon and Pine Bluff, Ark., and in Clarksdale, Greenville, Ruleville, Drew, Lambert, Friars Point, Lula, Shelby, Webb and Sledge, Miss.

Smart Commute Aimed at Those Buying Near Mass Transit

Home buyers in the city of St. Louis, St. Louis County and St. Clair County, Ill., now have a financial incentive to purchase a home near mass transit.

The pilot program, Smart Commute Initiative, is a new mortgage product from Fannie Mae. Designed to promote homeownership in neighborhoods near public transit lines, Smart Commute will be spreading to other cities and can be customized for each community. The initiative in the St. Louis area gives home buyers an additional $200 to $250 increase in their qualifying monthly income for a home mortgage if they purchase a home within one-quarter mile of a MetroBus route or one-half mile of a MetroLink station. Smart Commute mortgages can be combined with other mortgage products, including those with low down-payment options. When community lending products are used, standard community lending income limits apply.

In the St. Louis area, consumers may contact 1st National Bank at (314) 835-3700. In St. Clair County, consumers may contact Countrywide Home Loans at 1-800-877-5626. Interested persons in other areas can find out whether the program is available in their community by visiting