The Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center (ASBTDC), whose lead center is based at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, set a record by helping the state’s small business owners and entrepreneurs infuse nearly $102 million into the state’s economy during 2022.
“Helping businesses access capital is an ASBTDC strength,” ASBTDC State Director Laura Fine said. “For the last few years, our team has had a ‘stretch’ goal to break $100 million. We’ve worked hard to help our small business clients across the state achieve their goals, and I’m very proud of our team.”
The $101,966,578 of capital infusion comes from 28 ASBTDC consultants from across the state’s 10 offices who helped 264 clients with 408 funded projects. The consultants are also supported by a team of market researchers who provide consultants with valuable information to help their clients.
The clients – prospective and current business owners – received loans, lines of credit, grants, seed funding, and other capital investment during 2022.
One such client is Leo “Trey” Alexander, who is the owner-operator of LTBA Transportation, LLC. Brandon Horvath, an ASBTDC consultant at the UA Little Rock center, helped Alexander, a long-time truck driver who wanted to start his own trucking company, secure a startup loan and a line of credit.
“I was tired of working under someone else,” Alexander said. “I’ve never owned anything in my life. I am the first person in my family to do this, and I am really proud of myself. I am happy to be a business owner.”
The mission of the nationwide network of Small Business Development Centers is to help new entrepreneurs realize the dream of business ownership and to assist existing businesses so they can remain competitive in the complex marketplace of an ever-changing global economy.
Over the last decade, the ASBTDC network assisted Arkansas small businesses with obtaining more than three-quarters of a billion dollars in capital investment ($804,624,250), including the all-time best $102 million in 2022. Over the last 10 years, the ASBTDC network helped clients create 18,132 jobs.
In many ways, 2022 was a return to normal for the ASBTDC. Unlike the previous two years, about 90 percent of the $102 million capital investment they helped clients secure was to start and grow businesses, not rescue them.
“In my opinion, 2022 was back to business as normal after a few years of COVID,” Horvath said. “COVID didn’t go away, but the COVID relief funds did. The government invested a lot of funds in helping small businesses stay open. We heard a lot of sad stories during COVID, and 2022 felt like the optimism was coming back. We helped clients access very small amounts that are very meaningful to their businesses, but we’ve also had clients access millions of dollars and everything in-between. We need people to grow and start businesses to build the state’s economy.”
In addition to the lead ASBTDC center in the UA Little Rock College of Business, Health, and Human Services, nine institutions host regional offices: Arkansas State University, ASU Mid-South, ASU-Mountain Home, Arkansas Tech University, Southern Arkansas University, and University of Arkansas campuses at Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Monticello, and Pine Bluff.
The ASBTDC helps Arkansans with all tasks on the path to starting and expanding their businesses. Consultants help clients with tasks like creating a business plan, applying for funding, learning how to use social media to market their products, and choosing the best locations. Banks often refer their clients to ASBTDC to get help with funding requests.
“Many current and potential small business owners learn about our services through their friends and family who have worked with us or from their banker or local chamber,” Fine said. “Over four decades, we have cultivated a reputation as trusted advisors specializing in helping our clients obtain the capital funding they need to start or grow their businesses.”
B.J. and Jessica Hayre, owners of Jett’s Gas and Service since May 2022, found out about the services provided by the ASBTDC from George Jett, who had previously owned the business since the mid-90s. BJ Hayre, who spent 20 years working for Interstate Batteries, would stop at the long-established Little Rock gas station and auto repair shop every Thursday as part of his route, where he grew a close friendship with Jett.
“George approached me one day and said he wanted to sell the business so he could retire,” BJ Hayre said. “I always had the ambition of doing something better, but I didn’t want to jump into anything. George and I talked about it for a while, and George said he knew Nicolas who would love to help you.”
ASBTDC Consultant Nicolas Mayerhoeffer entered the picture and helped the Hayres through the more than two-year-long process to secure funding and purchase Jett’s.
“There were a lot of things I didn’t know about owning a business before,” BJ Hayre said. “Nicolas got me moving forward with a business plan, gave me a lot of demographic and marketing information that would be hard for me to obtain, and worked alongside me to contact banks who would be interested in this venture. The help that is provided by the center is a really great thing. Honestly, I don’t know if I would be sitting here right now without the help and guidance that he has provided me.”
BJ Hayre spent a year working under the supervision of Jett before he and his wife officially took over the business. Now they are committed to keeping this unique neighborhood business to the same standards Jett set for nearly 30 years running the business.
“This station is truly one of a kind,” BJ Hayre said. “People will come by and say that you have no idea what this station has done for this neighborhood, the impact it makes. Owning a business is something I never saw coming, but I get a good feeling being able to help people. Nicolas is kind of the catalyst for most of the opportunities put in front of me.”