The Delta Regional Authority will infuse more than $185,000 into small businesses in El Dorado and across south Arkansas, the federal-state partnership’s co-chairman announced Wednesday.
The funds will help launch the El Dorado Incubator Environment, known as EDIE’s Village, a business accelerator designed to aid entrepreneurs in Ashley, Bradley, Chicot and Union counties, Chris Masingill, the agency’s federal co-chairman, said in a statement.
The project, approved in coordination with Gov. Mike Beebe’s office in November, will also mark partnerships with South Arkansas Community College and the Arkansas Women’s Business Center, a nonprofit organization backed by Winrock International and the U.S. Small Business Administration.
A study conducted for the Delta Regional Authority found last month that small businesses have created more than 90 percent of the new jobs in the region over the past 20 years, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.
“This investment honors the hard work of our region's small businesses and entrepreneurs. They are truly the lifeblood of the Delta economy — starting and expanding small businesses that create jobs in good times and in bad. Business incubators like EDIE’s Village will be on the front lines of that growth, helping these businesses create jobs today and a stronger Delta economy for years to come,” Masingill said.
The $185,000 will help develop student-run business in a program expected to include 25 to 30 college students; launch retail space for 20 local entrepreneurs; offer business-development and product-marketing counseling for those entrepreneurs; and leverage more resources from the Small Business Administration and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the statement said.
South Arkansas Community College President Barbara Jones said the program will represent “a capstone learning experience” for the school’s students.
The Delta Regional Authority targets economic development in 252 counties in eight states, including 42 counties in Arkansas.