Conductor spells out public policies that help entrepreneurs thrive

Conductor spells out public policies that help entrepreneurs thrive

Arkansas’ entrepreneurial ecosystem has sprung to life over the past few years and vital business accelerators that support the banking, technology, financial services and food-and-beverage industries are thriving in every corner of the state.

The Conductor, with operations at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, has become a key player in supporting the development of entrepreneurs and boosting small-business growth in surrounding areas.

To continue improving, the organization has developed 56 recommendations to augment entrepreneurial development in Arkansas.

The Arkansas Entrepreneurship Policy Framework details key areas such as availability of capital, childcare needs, health care coverage, infrastructure, rural vs. urban challenges for entrepreneurs and licensing requirements that place undue burdens on small businesses scrapping to survive.

The project presents recommendations for state and local policymakers to remove or reduce barriers for entrepreneurs and their ideas.

“We believe by fostering activity that supports talent creation, an entrepreneurial culture, community engagement and access to capital, Arkansans will be better equipped to start and grow companies that will positively impact the economic landscape of our state,” the Conductor says in outlining the proposals.

The Conductor’s policy-advocacy effort started in 2019 when US Rep. French Hill helped put together entrepreneurial support organizations and other stakeholders to discuss policy hindrances and objectives. That further developed into an outline based on a foundation proposed by the Kaufman Foundation with initial recommendations in 2020.

Then came the pandemic.

“Covid really changed the game for entrepreneurship,” said Grace Rains, the Conductor’s executive director. “There are now a lot more barriers and there’s a more difficult environment. We decided it was time for us to take another look at the policy map. This is a more refined approach to what entrepreneurs really need to remove barriers.”

The Conductor convened a group of more than 20 entrepreneur-focused organizations in April at the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute. Those sessions and continued collaboration led to the latest policy framework.

The ultimate goal is to engineer job growth and encourage small-business development across Arkansas.

Costly and time-consuming regulations and too-stringent code requirements create challenges that are difficult for start-ups to overcome, especially since many already are cash and resources poor. “There are some onerous policies around city codes that present hardships for entrepreneurs,” Rains said. “One of the problems is those things are inconsistent across the state. And there are codes that are antiquated and they’re not very business-friendly.”

The framework encourages municipalities to develop laws and regulations that are more compatible for entrepreneurs. “That’s really where we feel we can have the biggest impact with this — to get the framework in the hands of local and municipal leaders to create a more friendly environment,” Rains said.

Similarly, on the state level, the approach calls for a careful examination of any new legislation from the viewpoint of entrepreneurs to help ensure laws don’t impede small-business development in any way. “You can justify that when you realize 65.1% of net new job growth comes from small business,” she added.

The Conductor is a public-private partnership between Fayetteville-based Startup Junkie and the University of Central Arkansas. Since 2016, it has provided support services to entrepreneurs including consulting, access to technology and a network of potential investors.

More information is available at arcconductor.org.

AFCU SURPASSES $2 BILLION

Arkansas Federal Credit Union of Little Rock has achieved more than $2 billion in assets after producing record net income each of the previous six years with plans to end 2022 on another record performance.

Arkansas Federal operates 20 branches throughout central and northwest Arkansas. In addition to the branch locations, the credit union continues to invest in digital banking channels that allow members throughout the state to easily manage their finances anywhere, anytime.

“We are continuing to invest heavily in our branch footprint and our digital banking network so that we can continue to make a difference for more Arkansans,” said Rodney Showmar, president and chief executive officer.

Arkansas Federal surpassed $2 billion in assets by continuing to grow deposits, consumer loans and mortgages faster over the previous few years. The organization is also focused on serving small- and mid-sized business through its commercial and lending and treasury management services.

SMALL BUSINESS COUNSELING

The Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center at Arkansas State University will offer on-site counseling for small businesses in area counties beginning this week.

Entrepreneurs and small business owners will have the opportunity to meet with a development center business consultant. Two sessions are scheduled for Thursday, one at the Batesville Chamber of Commerce and another at the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce in Walnut Ridge.

The organization provides assistance that includes business planning, financial analysis, market research, loan packaging, growth and expansion, marketing and profitability.

There is no charge for the sessions but registration is required. More information is available at (870)-972-3517.

Two more sessions are scheduled for later in the month: Oct. 25 at the Spring River Innovation Hub in Cherokee Village and on Oct. 27 at the Randolph County Chamber of Commerce in Pocahontas.

TUTORING ON EXPORTS

Arkansas Manufacturing Solutions and the Arkansas District Export Council are offering free webinars focusing on export finance over the next four weeks. All sessions begin at 9 am

The first session is at 9 am Wednesday with details about operations and services offered by the Export-Import Bank of the United States. It will also discuss Small Business Administration export programs, such as international trade loans, export working capital and available grants.

The next session on Oct. 26 will cover international banking products, such as letters of credit and foreign wire transfers. The Nov. 2 session will offer insight on trade credit services, export credit insurance and how to gain information on international companies.

The series concludes Nov. 9 with a discussion no managing currency risk and how to use best practices to invoice foreign customers.

Managing Currency Risk, by using the best practices for invoicing foreign customers and getting the best foreign exchange rate.

Registration and more details are available at exportarkansas.org.

Column ideas or recommendations? Thoughts or musings that need pursuing? Contact me at amoreau@adgnewsroom.com or at (501) 378-3567.

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