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Arkansas State University will lead an accelerator program to bolster growth for 30 small businesses in the northeast corner of the state beginning in May.

The Smart Growth accelerator program is a six-week initiative that will support businesses that have been operating for at least a year in Craighead, Crittenden and Mississippi counties. Arkansas State will select up to 10 businesses from each county to take part in the program, which is free to participants.

"We're really looking for businesses that are past the start-up stage, so they've cleared that hurdle, and they're now ready for growth," said Laura Miller, director of the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center at Arkansas State. Participation is open to all business sectors.

Programs are staggered throughout 2020. The cohort in Craighead County is scheduled to start in May; the Mississippi County program is scheduled for August while Crittenden County starts in September.

Businesses will get support and mentoring from the university and community leaders to help them develop and implement a strategic growth plan. "Thinking strategically about the future will give business owners insights that will increase their confidence and help them make informed decisions," said Laura Fine, state director of the development center.

Arkansas State also will offer other types of specialized support for existing businesses in the three counties at no cost.

For example, small businesses can request a customized market-research summary. That report combines customer demographics, lifestyle and spending data with map-based analytics, giving businesses deeper understanding of their customers.

"We'll provide access to marketing databases to help these businesses understand their customers so they can make better business decisions," Miller said.

Accelerator participants will receive support in key areas: business planning, marketing, financial management and financing for growth plans. The program will include four workshops to help the business owners develop their growth plans.

"We'll also provide some consulting services after the program ends to businesses that need additional support," Miller added.

The U.S. Small Business Administration is providing a $100,000 grant for the accelerator. The program is open only to small businesses located in one of the three counties that have been operating for at least one year but fewer than five years and have at least one employee other than the owner.

Arkansas State will work with several local organizations to provide mentoring and advice to businesses participating in the accelerator.

Local collaborators will 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.

Business on 02/11/2020

Print Headline: ASU Smart Growth program revving up for small businesses

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