The Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro will use a $100,000 federal grant to launch its Smart Growth Accelerator.
The program will be offered free to businesses in Craighead, Crittenden and Mississippi counties that are one to five years old and have at least one employee who isn’t the owner.
“So they’ve gotten over that first-year startup hurdle, and they’re ready to grow, but they haven’t been around so long that they’re already maxed out on their growth. We’re hoping to hit them in that early growth stage,” Laura Miller, director of the ASBTDC at A-State, told Arkansas Business.
“If you’re past that startup stage, and you’re ready for growth, and you’re just not sure how to put a plan together for that, this would be a program for you. We’ll address the business planning,” she said. “We’ll address market research, marketing to your customers, cash flow and funding sources to help implement [plans].”
The program is designed to help businesses develop one-page strategic growth plans in four sessions held over six to eight weeks. The center’s team and its partners will work with the businesses on a one-on-one basis, Miller said.
Up to 10 businesses in each county — a total of 30 — will be selected for this year’s Smart Growth Accelerator.
The Craighead program will begin in May/June. The Mississippi program will start in August/September, and the Crittenden program will start in September/October, Miller said.
She said the grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration is renewable for up to two years.
Partners on the Smart Growth Accelerator include the Delta Center for Economic Development, East Arkansas Planning and Development District and the Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce in Craighead County; Arkansas State University Mid-South, Delta Cuisine and the Marion Chamber of Commerce in Crittenden County; and Great River Economic Development Mississippi County and the Osceola/South Mississippi County Chamber of Commerce in Mississippi County.
In addition, the center will offer participants a Target Market Summary that includes “customer demographics, lifestyle and spending data with map-based analytics.” The center does market research on a daily basis for clients, but these are special reports offered as part of the grant-funded program.
The center will also offer the consulting services it’s known for to the businesses that graduate and need those services.
The accelerator is different from what the ASBTDC usually does for businesses, Miller said.
“It’s targeting the specific groups with the specific sessions,” she said. “Usually, we’re more generalist, but this, we’re focusing in on those growth companies.”
She said the three counties were chosen for the accelerator based on them having the largest job loss in northeast Arkansas over the past five years. The center hopes the program will be a boon to job growth in the area.
Online applications will be available in March.