The Delta Grassroots Caucus (DGC) is a broad coalition of grassroots leaders in the eight-state Delta region. DGC is also a founding partner of the Economic Equality Caucus,
which advocates for economic equality across the USA.

Greater North Louisiana CDC's Great Work in the Louisiana Delta: A Profile

Posted on July 09, 2013 at 12:20 PM

The Delta Grassroots Caucus would like to recognize the excellent accomplishments of the Greater Northern Louisiana Community Development Corporation (GNLCDC), led by Janice Simmons, Executive Director and CEO, and Herbert Simmons, chairman of the Greater Northern Louisiana CDC board.

Herb and Janice Simmons have both participated at Delta Caucus events, and we wanted to recognize their many beneficial accomplishments in the north Louisiana Delta in housing, education, job creation and small business development, and other beneficial activities.

Janice Simmons is co-founder, executive director and CEO of GNLCDC. She was a speaker at the Delta Caucus regional conference in West Memphis, Arkansas last year and plays a vital role in the many constructive activities of this excellent organization in northern Louisiana.

Dr. Herb Simmons, Jr. is now Associate Professor, Criminal Justice Department, Para-legal Studies Program at Grambling State University. Dr. Simmons brings a wealth of experience and dedication to GNLCDC as the President and Chairman of the Board. Dr. Simmons holds a B.A. in Business Administration and Political Science from Grambling State University, and a Juris Doctorate from Howard University, School of Law.

GNLCDC has its headquarters in Jonesboro, Louisiana and serves a six parish area inclusive of: Bienville, Claiborne, Jackson, Lincoln, Union and Winn parishes in Louisiana.

On a number of constructive activities Greater North Louisiana CDC collaborates with Grambling State University, where Herb Simmons is a professor. Dr. Obadiah Simmons (no relation to Herb Simmons) of Grambling State University is a veteran Delta regional advocate who is also a steadfast leader for the Delta Grassroots Caucus.

(NOTE: For information about schedule, registration and other specifics regarding the Oct. 17-18 Delta Grassroots Caucus regional conference at the Memphis, Tennessee Agri-Center International, go to the website at and click on the “Caucus articles” link and scroll down to the articles about the Oct. 17-18 Memphis conference. We are working on lining up the speakers and other components of the program and will send out updates as we progress.)

This message is obviously very much in-depth, and many will want to look over the table of contents and read the opening summary or those sections that they are most interested in.

This message will cover:

1) A brief summary of Dr. Herbert Simmons, Jr.’s presentation at the Delta Caucus conference at the Clinton Presidential Library on May 3, 2013

2) Brief Summary of Grassroots Community Leadership: Greater Northern Louisiana CDC

3) Greater Northern Louisiana CDC Small Business Learning Center

4) Brief Listing of Some of the Honors Recognizing the Greater Northern Louisiana CDC’s contributions to northern Louisiana

5) Piney Woods Subdivision Housing Program

6) Greater Northern Louisiana CDC Youth Program: Giving Back To The Community

7) Brief Bios of the Board of Directors, demonstrating their dynamic range of accomplishments in small business, law, education, community and economic development, journalism, and military service, including one member of the famous Tuskegee Airmen in World War II in the US Air Force.


Website: Phone: (318) 395-9355 Fax: (318) 395-9353 Email: Address: 160 Industrial Drive, P. O. Box 460, Jonesboro, LA 71251

  1. Brief Summary of Dr. Herbert Simmons, Jr. Presentation at the Delta Conference, Clinton Presidential Library, May 3, 2013

Herb Simmons began by observing that Jonesboro, Louisiana, unlike the much larger and relatively prosperous northeast Arkansas community of Jonesboro, AR, is a very small town of about 4,800 people situated in Jackson Parish, which has a total population of about 18,000 people—“there’s a lot of blight, there’s a lot of poverty. But we’re trying to make a difference to create programs to assist those who can’t fend for themselves.”

Simmons said he has been involved in community and economic development for 40 years, but “I’m still just mesmerized by some of the conditions we still face in our nation, our state and our city.” In thinking about how we can create true economic progress in the region, he asked how can we develop a viable economic development strategy when there are two sharply divergent philosophies about how to go about it?

One strategy, he said, contends that we can’t spend our way out of poverty, suffering and miserby. But this point of view involves cutting spending for the programs that would help the economically distressed people we are trying so diligently to help.

A second philosophy holds that if we do not invest in programs like health care, Head Start, and other initiatives to help those clinging to the bottom rung of the ladder then we will continue to see the same problems we have seen in the past. In his 40 years of working in this field, he said the difficult economic problems in the Delta region have presented one of the greatest challenges our nation faces. He said the Greater North Louisiana CDC is looking carefully at programs that can make a difference and bring about positive change in the region.

One promising reality is that Jonesboro is located on Highway 167, a major four-lane thoroughfare from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes. In traveling to Little Rock from Jonesboro he said he saw that one section of 167 is still being constructed, but through Jonesboro and most other areas along its route it is four lanes. Simmons said 167 is the goose that can lay the golden egg. He said the community leaders are working on exploiting the economic impact of having a four-lane major transportation artery going through their town.

One issue that Greater North Louisiana CDC (GNLCDC) is working on is that Jonesboro is without an adequate hotel, but they are working on building one and are on the verge of completing that project. The CDC has acquired the land, and they are bringing in private investment and working with a major hotel company to bring a hotel there. The hotel will bring some jobs and add a much needed facility to the town.

GNLCDC is also working with Grambling State University on Operation Jump Start in order to promote growth of small businesses, which are the strongest engine for job creation. Operation Jump Start provides people who are interested in starting a business with expertise on how to develop a business plan and other essential components of how to start up and succeed with a small business. The CDC just completed two Operation Jump Start sessions, one at Grambling and one in Jonesboro, in which they graduated over 20 people with knowledge about succeeding in small business, and each one would provide jobs for others.

Another vital program where GNLCDC is working is in housing: they have produced over 70 housing units for low to moderate income people and are looking forward to do more.

He said when industry considering moving into an area one of the key features they look at is the housing stock. He said the educational system is another key area industry considers, and education is another key area where the CDC has cooperated with the Jackson Parish NAACP, local businesses, city and parish leaders to promote scholarships and other educational improvements in the local area. (More information on their educational program is in the sixth section below on the GNCDC educational program for young people.)

GNLCDC has worked with the Louisiana Housing Corporation to obtain housing tax credits, and this is a major plus for the community, because Jonesboro had not had any new housing in 60 years.

One project they were proud of consisted of taking an old abandoned post office and converting it into 10 new housing units, utilizing a sizable grant from HUD.

In closing, Simmons said “I want to commend all of you who are involved in this struggle to make life better for those who can’t fend for themselves.” He thanked Lee Powell, executive director of the Delta Caucus for asking him to participate in 2013, recalling that his wife Janice Simmons spoke at the West Memphis, AR Delta conference last year and they have been coming to the Delta Caucus activities for three years now.

“I think it’s a great organization and we want to stay on board with you all in the future,” Simmons said.

The following sections in this newsletter provide more detail about each of the issues we have briefly summarized regarding Dr. Simmons’ excellent presentation on May 3 at the Great Hall of the Clinton Presidential Library. We appreciate Herb Simmons’ leadership in the northern Louisiana Delta and look forward to working with him in the future.

  1. Grassroots Community Leadership: Greater Northern Louisiana CDC

The vision of Greater North Louisiana Community Development Corporation (GNLCDC) is to operate as a viable entity serving the Delta Region and function as the leading catalyst for improving the quality of life for communities and residents in the six parish service area.

GNLCDC is a comprehensive technological community development corporation. Located in the Jackson Parish industrial development district in Jonesboro, Louisiana, GNLCDC is dedicated to “making a difference” for all residents of North Louisiana.

GNLCDC provides affordable housing opportunities for low to moderate income families, services to at-risk youth, partners with local and state government entities to provide community economic development, and works to provide training to small, minority and women owned business entities.

GNLCDC serves a six parish area inclusive of: Bienville, Claiborne, Jackson, Lincoln, Union and Winn.

  1. Greater Northern Louisiana CDC Small Business Learning Center

The Herbert Simmons, Sr. Small Business Learning Center was made possible through the support of Congressman Rodney Alexander and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

The mission of the H. Simmons, Sr. Small Business Learning Center is to foster the entrepreneurial spirit for the residents of six targeted parishes in the Greater North Louisiana CDC service area (Bienville, Claiborne, Lincoln, Jackson, Winn and Union) by offering training, education, and opportunities for capitalization that will lead to small business ownership or expansion of small minority and women owned businesses specifically and businesses in general.

Background Information on Small business learning center, from Fall, 2009 Greater North Louisiana CDC

The Small Business Learning Center has been up and running for several years now. Greater Northern Louisiana CDC also has a Small Business Conference Center as part of its facilities.

On January 9, 2009, a gentle breeze and a sunshine morning greeted the moderate crowd that gathered to witness the ground breaking for the next construction project on the horizon for the GNLCDC—the Herbert Simmons, Sr. Small Business Learning Center located at 16o Industrial Drive, adjacent to the Jackson Parish Community Center.

Eight months later, at the end of September, that facility prepared to celebrate its Grand Opening to the public on October 24. The day to day operations of the facility, which will draw heavily upon resource people from the three area universities-Grambling State University, Louisiana. Tech, and the University of Louisiana at Monroe–will provide training and technical assistance to small business owners and would-be owners, women and other minority -owned business looking to start up or grow their businesses. The Learning Center is an important component of the GNLCDC outreach program in that its purpose and services will address the overall mission and vision of the organization–economic and community development for small towns and cities. Although some training sessions will be held during normal working hours, most training exercisesw ill take place during evening hours in order to accommodate the working public. Any persons interested in enrolling for scheduled services or to secure more specific information should contact GNLCDC at (318) 395-9355.

  1. Honors Recognizing the Greater Northern Louisiana CDC’s contributions to northern Louisiana

One example of the honors received by GNLCDC was a proclamation in 2010 from Mayor Leslie Thompson of Jonesboro, Louisiana praising a broad range of activities: • in 2007 creating the Piney Woods Estate Subdivision where over 40 houses have been constructed; • Jonesboro Haven, where 16 apartments for disabled persons were constructed in 2009; • the completion of the Herbert Simmons, Sr., Small Business Learning Center and the GNLCDC Small Business Conference Center; • providing free tax preparation for low to moderate income families, free entrepreneurial counseling and SBA loan packaging in 2005-2006; • having the old Palace Theater in Jonesboro declared a historic site; • Partnering with the city of Jonesboro and Jackson Parish to develop a design study for the Parish for long-term planning and development.

  1. Piney Woods Subdivision Housing Program

Piney Woods Subdivision was completed in 2008. This subdivision consists of 40 single family homes spread over rolling hills tucked away in a quiet, safe, family oriented setting in Jonesboro, Louisiana. Each home is all brick with full amenities: washer, dryer, dishwasher, micro-wave oven, and garbage disposal. Additionally each unit has central air and heating, covered parking and a storage area. The homes are two, three and four bedrooms each with two full bathrooms and ceiling fans in the living area.
A community building is available for tenant’s use.

A playground is soon to be developed in the neighborhood for the enjoyment of the residents. This development was designed to be a blessing to those who desire a family home environment that is second to none and desire a more upscale living environment.

Income guidelines apply for eligibility. HUD (section 8) vouchers are accepted. Background and credit checks are conducted on all residents. For information on housing at Piney Wood Estates Subdivision, please call the office at (318) 259-3400

  1. Greater Northern Louisiana CDC Youth Program: Giving Back To The Community

Greater Northern Louisiana CDC recognizes the tremendous importance of education to a brighter future for the Delta region, and therefore they award scholarships to deserving students in northern Louisiana.

Scholarships Given:

2007: Arcadia High School Band

2008: Jonesboro-Hodge High School Band, Grambling State Universty Art Department GLNLCDC distributed scholarships to nine (9) participants of the Cotillion Beautillion Program. The scholarships were paid to the school of the candidates’ choice.

2009: Grambling State University Art Department, Grambling State University Criminal Justice Department GLNLCDC distributed scholarships to seven(7) participants of the Cotillion Beautillion Program. The scholarships were paid to the school of the candidates’ choice.

To provide more background on this program, we’d like to quote from news reports such as one in the Jacksonn Independent newspaper in June, 2010, which summarized some of the key facts about the cooperative venture of GNLCDC, the Jackson Parish NAACP, and EXCO Operating Company regarding the Hand-up to Opportunities, Purpose and Empowerment (HOPE) Community Tuition Scholarship program.

At an event in the Jonesboro Community Center at that time, six graduates of the Jonesboro-Hodge High School were recognized for exemplary academic achievement by being awarded six scholarships, three of which were for $2,500 and three for $1,000. The 2010 HOPE recipients were Rachel Belton, Lakeita Bradley, LaKeyshia Brown, Erik Hopkins, Ineshia Marah and LaPashen Robinson. EXCO executive Harold Hickey, then interim Grambling State University President Dr. Frank Pogue congratulated the students.

President Windy Calahan of the Jackson Parish NAACP said, “The scholarships are long overdue and the Jackson Parish NAACP is very proud to be a part of an activity that truly makes a difference when it comes to saving our kids.”

Janice Simmons, CEO of the Greater Northern Louisiana CDC, said “I am proud of the HOPE recipients and I am equally as proud of the collaborative that is working together to make this program successful for our students. Often the difference between failure and success is as simple as a hand-up and that is what we are endeavoring to provide through this program. Working together makes a difference.”

The HOPE scholarship requirements focus largelhy on academic achievement and potential success of the applicants. Included among them are requirements that all applicants be accepted to a university and have an ACT score required for acceptance to the university of the applicant’s choice.

GNLCDC Board of Directors

Dr. Herbert Simmons, Jr. President/Chairman Dr. Simmons has been actively involved in public service work for most of his professional career. He has served on a number of boards and commissions, owned and operated Winnfield Funeral Home of Lafayette, served as Undersecretary in the Louisiana Department of Social Services, Director of the National Consumer Protection Agency and now as Associate Professor, Criminal Justice Department, Para-legal Studies Program at Grambling State University. Dr. Simmons brings a wealth of experience and dedication to GNLCDC as the President and Chairman of the Board. Dr. Simmons holds a B.A. in Business Administration and Political Science from Grambling State University, an Associate Degree in Mortuary Science from the University of the District of Columbia and a Juris Doctorate from Howard University, School of Law. He and his wife Janice co-founded GNLCDC.

Rev. J. P. Stephens Vice-President Rev. Stephens is founder and President of the Mt. Pleasant Community Development Corporation in Monroe, La. Under his direction, Mt. Pleasant has developed more than 300 units of housing for low income residents. Rev. Stephens is also Pastor of the Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church. He is a retired U. S. Air Force veteran and was one of GNLCDC’S initial board members.

Ms. Inell Flowers Secretary Ms. Flowers is a retired educator with a B.A. Degree in Elementary Education and an M.A. Degree in Guidance and Counseling from Grambling State University. She has taught in the public schools of Winn parish as well in the Cleveland Mississippi public school system. She is active in the Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church of Winnfield where she serves as a deaconess, president of the choir, assistant Sunday School teacher, mission member, and regularly attends Bible study. Ms. Flowers has been a volunteer with GNLCDC for many years and is a reliable and dependable asset to the organization.

Mr. Mervin Harmon Treasurer Mr. Harmon is a retired school bus driver and successful business owner. He has served on the boards of a number of social and civic organizations and currently serves his church as a deacon. Mr. Harmon served as a Police Juror in Lafayette parish and holds the distinction of being the first African American elected in Lafayette Parish since re-construction. He also served with the now famed and distinguished Tuskegee Airmen during World War II in the U. S. Air Force. Mr. Harmon was one of the original incorporators and board members of GNLCDC.

Mr. Robert Bradley Board Member Mr. Bradley brings business expertise to the board after having dedicated 37 years to Hallmark Cards as a manager. He is a graduate of Jackson High School in Jonesboro, LA. Mr. Bradley’s passion is working with youth programs and his contributions to GNLCDC have proven to be invaluable, especially as related to youth development.

Mr. Ken Filardo Board Member Mr. Filardo is the Production Superintendent for Exco Resources, Inc., and has been in the oil field for 30 years. He attended Nicholls State University in Petroleum Engineering Technology and earned an Associate of Arts Degree in Business from the University of Phoenix. Mr. Filardo is also a life member of the NAACP.

Mr. Aaron James Board Member Mr. James has a varied background and experiences to bring to the board of GNLCDC. Mr. James has played professional basketball, was a high school and college coach, and currently serves as an Assistant Professor at Grambling State University. Mr. James earned a B.A. Degree in Health and Recreation and an M.S. Degree in Sports Administration from Grambling State University. He has served with distinction as a member of the Bayou Classic Planning Committee for many years.

Mr. Earnest Miles Board Member For the last thirty years or more, Mr. Miles has been the host of the Earnie Miles Show on KNOE-TV in Monroe, Louisiana. Mr. Miles has produced a number of documentaries for television. He taught high school math and is retired from Grambling State University where he worked in public affairs. Mr. Miles earned a B.S. Degree in Social Studies from Grambling State University and did graduate studies at Xavier University of New Orleans and the University of Detroit. He is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force.

Ms. Addie Stringer Board Member Ms. Stringer is a native of Jonesboro, Louisiana and retired from the Jackson Parish school system after thirty-five years of service. She has worked as a secretary, tutor, and parent coordinator. She is a graduate of Robinson Business College with a degree in business. Ms. Stringer works very hard to insure that the needs of citizens throughout our service area are met.