A new local planning initiative in Mississippi has the potential to greatly expand regional projects and opportunities here along the coast. The Gulf Coast Community Design Studio, in conjunction with the Gulf Regional Planning Commission (GRPC), has created a steering committee dedicated to promoting local resiliency. This regional steering committee will assist the Gulf Coast Community ExCHANGE, a newly created organization, in its primary mission, which is to serve as a regional resource exchange center for coastal Mississippi. The steering committee and ExCHANGE will also build upon the goals and objectives outlined in the Plan for Opportunity, released by GRPC in 2013, and the framework it puts forth for regional planning.
Once the steering committee membership has been finalized, there will be 15 members in total representing many different jurisdictions and organizations. As of this time, I can announce that I will be one of the members on the initial steering committee, but there are countless other groups and stakeholders, which are poised and ready to contribute their time to this endeavor. Traditional planners are included in the organization’s roster as are state officials, environmental groups and grassroots activists.
The first meeting is scheduled for July 12, with regular monthly meetings being held as the committee gets established and organized. Members of the committee are also encouraged to be involved in at least one working group or partnership committee, which can focus on specific topics and community issues that the steering committee believes are important. This ensures that the information provided by the ExCHANGE will be directly relevant to issues and challenges coastal Mississippi communities are currently confronting.
Though cities and towns generally possess unique characteristics that distinguish them from other places, many characteristics, such as environmental and cultural traits, go beyond jurisdictional boundaries to affect other places. The steering committee will be tasked with assessing those common traits that affect not just a particular community, but also the whole coastal region. By building a comprehensive regional picture of the overall resiliency and health of Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, it is the group’s hope that a comprehensive knowledge database can be established that will open up future opportunities for regional cooperation and understanding.