Southern Bancorp Launches Economic Development Effort in Helena

Southern Bancorp this week unveiled its Riverside Renewal Project in Helena, part of a "trifecta of economic development tools" the rural development bank has launched to promote job growth and entrepreneurship in the Delta.

The Riverside Renewal Project aims to accelerate revitalization of Helena's historic downtown by matching investments in eligible commercial and residentials properties up to $100,000. Rounding out the "trifecta" are the Helena Startup Challenge, a business-plan competition designed to lure entrepreneurs and which will announce winners soon, and the Helena Jobs Incentive, which provides perks of up to $100,000 per project to businesses that add new jobs within the Helena city limits, at the Helena Harbor or in the city's industrial park.

Southern Bancorp, which serves more than 80,000 in Arkansas and Mississippi, is partnering with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on each project.

"Southern is on a mission to create new economic opportunities for people and businesses in rural communities, and this project underscores our commitment to finding new and innovative ways to both revitalize and help transform them into stronger, more sustainable centers of economic growth," said Southern Bancorp CEO Darrin Williams in a news release.

The Riverside Renewal Project is administered by Southern’s nonprofit affiliate, Southern Bancorp Community Partners. It provides a dollar-for-dollar match for economic development projects within a specified area of downtown Helena, with a minimum of $25,000 and a maximum of $100,000.

Eligible projects include commercial and residential property that contribute to broader revitalization efforts such as restaurants, retail, entertainment, apartments and hotels, according to the release. Applications for consideration are due by March 31.

"We’re looking for individuals and businesses with an entrepreneurial spirit and the capacity to convert it to jobs and economic opportunities," said Williams. "We believe that rural communities in the Delta and across rural America deserve the opportunity to earn their way into prosperity just like their urban counterparts."

For more information on the Riverside Renewal Project, contact Brooke Gerber at brooke.gerber@southernpartners.org or (870) 816-1115.