Arkansas Baptist College Launches Scott Ford Center for Entrepreneurship

(Update: THVideo - Click to watch a Today's THV report on the new center and its launch party.)

Arkansas Baptist College in Little Rock on Monday will launch the Scott Ford Center for Entrepreneurship and Community Development, aimed at developing a trained corps of entrepreneurs prepared to start businesses in underserved communities.

An event for the launched is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. in Old Main on the Arkansas Baptist College campus at 1621 Dr Martin Luther King Drive.

The center, named for former Alltel Corp. CEO Scott Ford, will be housed in the college's Community Union, an 11,000-SF facility that is scheduled to open in early 2012 at the corner of Dr. Martin Luther King Drive and 16th Street.

Dr. Fitz Hill, president of Arkansas Baptist, said the Scott Ford Center will be the hub of the college's efforts to develop entrepreneurs who want to build for-profit companies while serving their community.

"Our fundamental goal is to create a self-sustaining community like our forefathers did when they didn't have the freedom to do business outside of their communities," Hill said in a news release. "We will do so by investing in human capital that resides in our community and continue to create educational access for all. This is tied into the mission of our institution."

The center will offering several courses and programs, including a micro-enterprise loan fund aimed at spurring business development in urban areas.

"The micro-lending program will be a core program we offer through the Scott Ford Center," Hill said. "Borrowers will find complete support not only to meet their business needs but they also will be able to draw on the expertise of our advisory council in developing a strategy for their businesses."

Lending will range from $50 loans to up to $5,000. The program aims to launch up to 10 new businesses annually. The fund will be supervised by an independent board that includes the college's business faculty and administration and local financial experts.

"Our goal is to support entrepreneurs who are dedicated to building solid business plans for underserved communities," said Richard Massey, a partner in Little Rock-based Westrock Capital Partners. "We're going to work to develop the next generation of business leaders who share our commitment to for-profit enterprises that give back to their communities."

Westrock Capital Partners is an investment group formed in 2009 by by Ford, his father Joe Ford and Massey.

Other key components of Scott Ford Center are already in place:

  • The college is entering a partnership with the African Bean Company, which has developed the Roots Java coffee brand. The college will have a Roots Java retail outlet in the Community Union building.
  • The college also operates the Auto Baptism Car Wash and the Garden of Eden Fresh Market at the corner of Wright Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King Drive, which the college uses as training grounds for students, with profits used to reinvest in the college and the surrounding neighborhood.

More on Westrock

In this week's Arkansas Business cover story, Westrock sets its sights on more banking investments.