One word seems to have been missing from the state's effort to help small business development: technology.
The University of Arkansas at Little Rock and other higher education institutions in the state recently acknowledged the Arkansas Small Business Development Center's shift toward assisting high-tech and innovative businesses. During separate ceremonies at the schools this week, the center unveiled its new name: the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center.
Gov. Mike Beebe joined officials at UALR on Monday, highlighting his administration's effort to move Arkansas into the 21st century economy by creating more knowledge- and technology-based jobs.
"We need to prepare our small businesses for a strong standing in a competitive 21st-century economy," Beebe said in a news release. "Many technological innovations begin in our small businesses and this center will support those companies and foster advances that will lead to long-term success."
Officials said the center has developed its technology services over the last decade, adding cutting-edge market research capabilities, expanding technology training programs and creating staff positions to focus on innovation and technology. It also specializes in helping all types of existing small businesses apply technology.
"Our new name illustrates an important extension of our mission to serve Arkansas' entrepreneurial community," Janet M. Roderick, state director of the Arkansas Small Business Development Center, said in a news release. "Arkansas must be on the leading edge of technology to compete with other states, and internationally, in this economy. Our small businesses must be able to access and utilize available technology to expand and grow."
The expansion of services helped the center qualify for special technology accreditation from the national Association of Small Business Development Centers. The accreditation recognizes the center's ability to assist clients in areas such as commercialization, research and development funding, technology transfer, intellectual property and equity financing.
Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center was only the fifth of the 63 small business development centers in the country to earn the technology designation, according to officials.
"We began a decade ago to develop services for innovation and technology-based businesses when it became apparent that a key to economic growth in Arkansas would be our own innovation - not just waiting for jobs and companies to choose us, but growing our own," Roderick said.
In the last five years, the center helped to create 5,024 new jobs in Arkansas and to retain another 3,373 jobs. Over the same time span, it helped clients secure $216 million in funding for their small businesses.
Similar ceremonies were held at UA's Sam M. Walton College of Business, Arkansas State University, Henderson State University, Southern Arkansas University and the University of Arkansas at Monticello College of Technology-McGehee.