The Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center is seeking collaborative partners from across the state to become Arkansas Small Business Community Navigators.
The Community Navigator initiative represents a cohesive framework for helping Arkansas small businesses respond to continuing challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, says ASBTDC State Director Laura Fine.
Fine said ASBTDC will build on its long history of working collaboratively with community-based groups and organizations to assist businesses in every corner of the state.
“We want to make sure small businesses owned by women, minorities, veterans, rural entrepreneurs, and socially and economically disadvantaged individuals can easily access the assistance they need,” she said.
Through the Arkansas Small Business Community Navigator program, chambers of commerce, economic development organizations, non-profits, and municipalities can connect local business owners with ASBTDC’s expertise in business development and one-on-one business consulting, along with other critical services and funding programs.
The center will act as a hub for these entrepreneurial support and community organizations to ensure that all Arkansas small businesses have access to resources, information, and technical assistance to help weather the coronavirus crisis.
“This project will help ensure even the smallest businesses owners access relief funding and counseling. It’s our goal to get critical information and assistance to our underserved business owners and ensure we work collaboratively to help build a stronger, more inclusive, small business ecosystem,” said Edward Haddock, U.S. Small Business Administration Arkansas District director. “SBA is committed to bring together resources to increase access to capital, contracting, training, and assistance to all communities across Arkansas through the Community Navigator project.”
The new American Rescue Plan Act provides additional funding for the popular Paycheck Protection Program, Economic Injury Disaster Loan, and EIDL Advance, as well as other targeted support for struggling small businesses, such as the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant and the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.
Through engagement at the grassroots level, Community Navigators will give businesses an avenue to access information about the programs as well as hands-on assistance to help them apply.
Arkansas has nearly 250,000 small businesses, and less than a quarter of them received PPP funding in 2020. An analysis of the PPP and EIDL funds distributed in 2020 found that not all communities benefited equally from the programs. This disparity was underscored by the recent studies conducted by the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas and Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation.
“ASBTDC is committed to ensuring that the Arkansas small businesses equitably receive the support they need to access federal relief programs that can help them weather the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The good news is that with the recently enacted American Rescue Plan Act, more funding has been provided for the PPP, EIDL, and EIDL Advance programs. This along with the new Shuttered Venue Operators Grant and the Restaurant Revitalization Fund programs will allow Arkansas small businesses to access funding to stay afloat,” Fine said.
Known for its no-cost, one-on-one guidance to businesses, the ASBTDC network is the state’s largest small business assistance provider. In 2021, ASBTDC is adding four new regional offices in Fort Smith, Mountain Home, Pine Bluff, and West Memphis.
During the pandemic, the center’s consultants have guided hundreds of businesses through the application process for PPP and other federal, state, and private relief funding opportunities, assisting them in securing $57.6 million in COVID-19 relief. Over the last 10 years, ASBTDC has helped clients obtain nearly $750 million in capital funding.
“The Arkansas Hospitality Association applauds the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center’s effort to assist businesses in Arkansas to get funding from the recently passed American Rescue Plan Act which includes the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. It is going to take all of us working together to help Arkansas businesses get funding relief and to save our industry,” said Montine McNulty, the association’s CEO.
ASBTDC assists startups, existing businesses, expanding businesses and innovation-based businesses statewide. For more information, visit asbtdc.org or call the center’s toll-free Infoline at (800) 862-2040.