Initiative for Delta. is launched
Four nonprofits that support small businesses in the Arkansas Delta have been selected to help their customers develop pandemic recovery plans.
The new effort by the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center, called Recovery Navigators, is focused on providing financial and technical resources to minority businesses in rural areas.
Delta Circles, one of the nonprofits selected, works with approximately 30 small businesses and entrepreneurs in Phillips County. Delta Circles executive director Patricia Ashanti said Friday that she was not yet sure how many of these operators would join the navigators’ efforts.
“This will primarily help our small businesses with the technical assistance they need to improve operations in areas such as website design,” said Ashanti. “This is just getting started so our first focus is introducing our customers to all of the services available through the Small Business Center. But there is a great need in our community and that effort should help.”
Other organizations selected for the effort are Delta Community Development and Law Center Inc. of Little Rock; East Arkansas Enterprise Community Inc. of Forrest City; and Phoenix Youth and Family Services Inc. from Crossett. Each organization receives $ 20,000 through the program.
“These four organizations provide critical support to communities and small businesses in the Arkansas Delta,” said Laura Fine, state director of the technology development center, in a press release. “We are excited to work with these companies and their executives to support colored entrepreneurs and all small businesses in the area.”
The four nonprofits will consult directly with small businesses and connect them to the center’s resources, said Michael Singleton, assistant state director of the Small Business and Technology Development Center.
“The pandemic has forced all of us to change the way we operate,” Singleton said on Friday. “The scale of small business needs has just increased in the past 12-14 months.”
The center provides technical assistance and mentoring to small businesses across the state. It has 11 websites, all of which are affiliated with a college partner to provide help in areas such as website development, market research, staff support, and access to capital.
“The need is so great that we wanted to find trusted partners in the Delta to make sure resources were being used so that we were responsive and not duplicative,” said Singleton.
Although it operates across Arkansas, the technology development center doesn’t have strong connections in the Delta, Singleton said. The Navigator program is designed to reach these communities.
“We don’t have the local relationships that some of the navigators have because we don’t work there every day,” Singleton said. “They are in these communities and have local knowledge and trust that we don’t have.”
At the same time, minority companies in rural areas like the Delta have difficulty accessing capital and do not always know how to find readily available finance.
“We have this expertise and relationships that can help these companies,” Singleton said. “Our role is to ensure that small businesses in these communities have access to all of the programs available to them.”
The US Small Business Administration is funding the technology development center, which is supported by college partners in Arkansas. Funding for the state agency was increased by $ 1.6 million during the pandemic through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. That has increased the organization’s budget in Arkansas to more than $ 4 million annually.