The Center for a Better South, founded in 2005 during a public policy conference at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has generated a string of successes through the years in its attempt to provide strategies and ideas to thinking leaders who want to make a difference in the South.
Here’s a short list of what we’ve accomplished:
2014-present, PROMISE ZONE: The Center for a Better South provided early and critical leadership and strategic vision to work with leaders in six counties of the southern part of South Carolina to win a federal Promise Zone designation. The Center continues to provide communications and strategic input to help the region, which has a 28.3 percent poverty rate and high unemployment, to win critical investments to grow jobs, improve education and reduce crime.
“Without the visionary leadership and guidance of the Center for a Better South, the counties in the SouthernCarolina Alliance never would have applied for a federal Promise Zone designation, much less been able to put together the winning application that will change the lives of tens of thousands of people in the southern part of South Carolina,” said Danny Black, president and CEO of the Alliance, an economic development agency that will lead work in the Zone counties. “We look forward to continuing to work with the Center to grow jobs, reduce poverty and make our communities better.”
2009-13, MEASURING THE SOUTH: In 2009 and again in 2011, the Center published a “Briefing Book” on the South that provided a collection of more than 70 data points about Southern states. The books were sent to policymakers, opinion-leaders and others to give a broad picture of the South based on statistical data.
2010-11: HELPING THE GULF. U.S. Secretary of Navy Ray Mabus asked the Center and its colleagues in 2010 to develop some big ideas for restoring the Gulf region following the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster that threatened the region’s quality of life. The Center published “Ideas for a Better Gulf” which, in part, called for a $10 billion development and recovery trust fund to help people along the Gulf coast leapfrog forward educationally and economically. One of the ideas — creation of a presidential commission to oversee the trust and develop a plan to administer it — was used as a blueprint to craft a regional commission that became law in 2012. For the work done by the Center, Better South President Andy Brack was named a White House Champion of Change in 2011.
2009-10, SETTING THE AGENDA. In November 2009, the Center held a major policy conference at Davidson College in North Carolina to develop what became an “Agenda for a Better South” — an eight-point guide of “measurable visions” for Southern leaders to enact to make big differences in people’s lives. In 2010, the Center had a major conference called “ThinkSouth” in Little Rock, Ark., to explore ideas for tax reform, making environmental change and reducing violence across the region.