Lauren Steel


McLarty Capital Partners

Little Rock

Age: 31

Lauren Steel

Lauren Steel grew up at Wynne, where her mother is a real estate agent and her father a farmer. For Steel, the challenges of economic development are not theoretical.

But neither, Steel said, is economic development limited to luring existing companies from elsewhere to establish plants in a given community.

“You hear about AEDC and trying to get companies to move here, but the thing that’s really holding small businesses back is they need capital — especially in the South, especially in Arkansas and surrounding states,” she said.

Steel graduated from the University of Arkansas and spent seven years at Stephens Inc. of Little Rock, ultimately as a stock analyst. But after earning a master’s degree from the London School of Economics in 2010, Steel “realized that the best way to promote growth and create jobs was to provide access to capital.”

In 2014, she joined McLarty Capital Partners, a $225 million small-business fund. Her job is to find promising companies among the scores seeking loans or equity investments. “If you can provide capital to these smart business owners, you can create jobs,” she said.

Evaluating investments for McLarty requires travel, but Steel is cutting back on that. She had her first baby last week.