Delta Plastics Takes Over As Title Sponsor Of Governor's Cup

Delta Plastics Takes Over As Title Sponsor Of Governor's Cup
Dhu Thompson, owner and chairman of Delta Plastics. (Daniel Moody)

Delta Plastics of Little Rock will succeed the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation as the new title sponsor of the annual Arkansas Governor's Cup Collegiate Business Plan Competition.

As title sponsor, Delta Plastics will provide $154,000 in cash prizes for the first-, second- and third-place overall winners in the graduate and undergraduate divisions in 2018.

Delta Plastics makes and supplies irrigation polytube for the agriculture industry and recycles heavily soiled and contaminated plastic.

The company has invested in the event since 2004 and, in 2011, sponsored its Innovation Division, which awards $5,000 in cash each year to both the graduate and undergraduate division winners in that category.

Arkansas Capital Corp. manages the Governor's Cup through its nonprofit Arkansas Economic Acceleration Foundation.

The change in title sponsors comes as the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation winds down operations. The organization, which is scheduled to close at the end of the year, has given more than $1.8 billion to nonprofits since 1994, including hundreds of millions of dollars to organizations in Arkansas.

Dhu Thompson, Delta Plastics owner and chairman, said the company began to support the Governor's Cup after he served as a judge in the competition and was impressed by the students and the professors who guided them.

"Each year, it impresses me ... We were approached by Arkansas Capital, and, to be honest with you, it was an easy decision," he said. "I just think the opportunity it presents for the students is phenomenal. The entrepreneurial side is something I promote because of what I've lived through with business."

Thompson was banker for 20 years before he bought Delta Plastics, built it up and helped it grow. He said he wants to give back by helping provide young people with the opportunity to get the experience they need to build up their business confidence.

Thompson said he is "phenomenally excited" about being the new title sponsor and agreed that the Governor's Cup helps create a greater talent pool that Delta Plastics and other businesses can benefit from.

"I'll use this as an example: We're in the plastics business, and what we do is very detailed. Other than finding somebody that's very specific, like a chemical engineer, you're not going to find anybody that does what we do. And a lot of businesses are like that, so you don't really get into the thick of it until you actually start doing the job," Thompson said.

For that reason, Delta Plastics has an internship program. The company seeks students who have "good logic, common sense, but a drive" for that program, Thompson said. In the past year, two interns have been hired as full-time employees, he said.

So the Governor's Cup gives businesses "the opportunity to look into a pool of academic achievers who are also driven individuals who want to accomplish something in their lives," Thompson said.

Rush Deacon, Arkansas Capital's CEO and a former member and chairman of its board of directors, said Delta Plastics brings a passion for entrepreneurialism to the table.

"This competition has had a profound impact on entrepreneurial education in the state of Arkansas. And it's really been very heartening to look at the effect this has had on what course the universities offer in the area of entrepreneurialism and the impact it's had on the students in terms of their education on real-world applications of concepts they learn in college," he said.

Deacon said Arkansas Capital will continue the Governor's Cup as long as funding allows. He said that while there are competitions for startup businesses, this one sets itself apart by being a business plan competition.

Deacon said it's OK if some winners don't go on to start businesses, because the purpose of the event has been to teach students to think like entrepreneurs.  

Since 2001, more than 2,500 students from 24 Arkansas colleges and universities have competed in the Governor's Cup, presenting 839 business ideas. The 2018 competition begins in February and will conclude with an awards luncheon on April 18 in Little Rock.