New Tools Can Help Boost Business in Arkansas (Commentary by Angela Frierson Shirey) | Arkansas Business News


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In 2021, Arkansas saw its business rebound and reset. Entrepreneurs had to be creative during the phase of “creative destruction” – a phenomenon that usually translates into economic progress. As the country recovers, support for small businesses will shift from preventing destruction to making key investments in entrepreneurial ecosystems and small business growth strategies.

From the perspective of the Arkansas Capital Corporation as a Certified Development Finance Institution (CDFI), we have witnessed links between federal, state and local governments; private companies; and non-profit organizations that mobilized to support business development and bold entrepreneurs, especially women and minority-owned businesses who faced insurmountable barriers to entry.

These and other emergency financing options can range from short-term to long-term capital and generally serve one of three purposes: creative investments in for-profit operations; training and support on the fundamentals of owning and operating a business enterprise; and tackle racial disparities in asset ownership and generational wealth.

As CDFI, the Treasury Department provides funding opportunities for small to large-scale projects and has increased direct loan programs and programs that target the training and development of entrepreneurs, the backbone of the economy. American. These tailor-made financial solutions can take the form of conventional financing or tax credits for new markets. Allocations have been set aside for 2021, and while funding may come with restrictions, those dollars can result in an influx of capital for business expansion and development.

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a leading source on entrepreneurial research and related grants, reports that many new businesses are effective and reliable in strengthening the economic foundation of a community or region. Over 95% of these businesses have remained small while playing a key stabilizing role in their communities.

In March, the Biden administration enacted the American Rescue Plan Act, which includes $ 10 billion to fund the State Small Business Credit Initiative, administered by the US Small Business Administration. Arkansas will receive an allocation whereby state agencies, in partnership with CDFIs, will create a bespoke plan to deploy much-needed funds to underserved communities.

When it comes to private support, JP Morgan Chase & Co. of New York and Bank of America of Charlotte, NC have created resilience funds and on-demand educational courses aimed at leveling the playing field for minority-owned businesses. Nationwide philanthropies and foundations have focused their programming on entrepreneurship-focused programs for for-profit entities, a change that required serious reflection and revised guidelines that remain consistent with regulated charitable contributions. The Walton Family Foundation of Arkansas has led investments through grants and other forms, particularly in the Arkansas Delta, which suffers from persistent poverty.

Other nonprofits such as Winrock International and The Venture Center have provided direct financial support by designing bold and innovative programs such as the Readying Business for Capital Access and Women Achieve programs, which administer grants to chambers of commerce. , community-based non-profit organizations and entrepreneurship support organizations. to reach entrepreneurs looking for the advice and intimate knowledge of seasoned entrepreneurs who have excelled.

The large number of investments and programs are positive signs of a needed spark in the Arkansas economy. In October, the indicators stabilized, showing confidence that small business owners can and will continue to provide the goods and services needed to keep people enjoying the American Dream.

As a non-profit organization that aims to empower entrepreneurs, we at Arkansas Capital Corporation find that the Arkansas economy has a myriad of options for stimulating economic development in a way that , we hope will remain robust for years to come. What might have been considered a destructive discord can now be seen as a concordance of business opportunities – it’s all about perspective.

Angela Frierson Shirey is vice president of community development at Arkansas Capital Corporation of Little Rock, a private, not-for-profit loan company founded in 1957.

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