By: Tony McCray
The $20 Billion Gulf Coast 5 State BP Oil Spill Settlement fever has hit the African-American and minority communities of Northwest Florida, South Alabama, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The Coastal Community Council for M.O.R.E. invited representatives from these Gulf Coast Regional communities to a planning and strategy session to discuss ways that best position these communities to capitalize on the $20.8 Billion BP Oil Spill settlement. Carletta Davis, the Chairperson for M.O.R.E. stated that she felt the most important impacts of the planning and strategy meeting was the “across state lines collaboration”! She additionally said, “I also felt the Minority Business Development Agency Associate Director was very impressive as he spoke of his concern for minority access to the BP Oil Spill Settlement funding for business and economic development.
The meeting was held on Wednesday, September 7, at the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce at 451 Government Street in Mobile, AL 36602 from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. A Minority Business Development Agency Associate Director of the U.S. Department of Commerce out of Washington, D.C. encouraged the various representatives to continue their collaboration and to bring their request for federal technical assistance to the nation’s capitol. The room was filled to capacity with business-owners, real estate agents, non-profit organization leaders, government representatives, civil-rights, and faith-based leaders. M.O.R.E. presented development ideas for the major Alabama economic development project to be announced later in September. The project is desired to create hundreds of jobs, business opportunities, community revitalization, tourism impacts, and regional economic transformation in a traditional poverty ridden minority area.
Mobile-based M.O.R.E. was the host for the event and is a collective of businesses, nonprofits and advocacy organizations in Alabama who organized a 501©3 to advocate for a fair portion of the $20.8 Billion settlement — at least 25 percent — for under-served majority communities in Alabama and other Gulf Coast states. M.O.R.E. stands for “Making Opportunities & Resources Equitable”. M.O.R.E.’s argument is that the group believes an equitable amount of these funds represent a game-changing economic opportunity for under-served minority communities that have been stuck in poverty for decades. In the past decade alone, the wealth of families and businesses in these communities have been further decimated by natural and man-made disasters, from Ivan, Katrina and other devastating hurricanes and tornadoes, to the housing market collapse, to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
SOAR With RESTORE from Escambia County, Florida was represented along with an Asian representative of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The SOAR With RESTORE representative updated the group on the ongoing growth of coalition-building in Northwest Florida. It was stated that Apalachicola, Port St. Joe, Panama City, Ft. Walton communities are beginning to collaborate with Pensacola on efforts to ensure African-American and other minority communities are organized to plan for use of BP Settlement Funding in Florida.
Davis went on to articulate that the M.O.R.E. strategy is to continue discussions with groups across state lines to find ways for local regional leaders in the five Gulf Coast states to work with federal, state and local officials to leverage public resources and private partnerships. “We plan to attend the Pensacola REAP Summit on September 30th and October 1st so we can share information about our major economic development project in a major African-American community in Alabama.