Pine Bluff Arkansas has been selected as one of six communities in the lower-Mississippi Delta to receive an investment in technical assistance and other resources targeting the growth and development of minority and women business enterprises.
The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff’s Economic Research and Development Center and its Business Support Incubator have been identified by the Delta Regional Authority as the lead agency to partner with the Mid-South Minority Business Council Continuum of Memphis in reaching out to minority businesses in the region.
The program is sponsored by the Delta Regional Authority and is a part of its Small Business and Entrepreneurship Initiative. The goals of the initiative are to diversify the region’s economic base, create and save jobs, increase the competitiveness of existing businesses, foster the development and use of innovative technologies and enhance entrepreneurial activity.
While there has been a spike in the number of minority firms created, many of these firms are sole proprietors, having few to no employees and low gross sales. Without the ability to grow and scale up, these businesses cannot be major sources of job creation. By 2050 minorities are projected to make up half of the U.S. population, currently making up 35.5 percent of the population of the Delta region.
Today minority unemployment rates are at 13.2 percent, more than double that of the non-minority population. With the understanding that minority employers typically have 76 percent of their workforce made up of minority employees, support for these businesses is crucial to the growth and sustainability of Delta communities.
The project will address some of the challenges hindering minority and women business enterprises in the Delta, such as achieving competitiveness in public and private procurement opportunities by providing a strategic training, development and assistance model through 10 events in six Delta communities, including Jefferson County.
“As an 1890 Land-Grant University, UAPB sees economic empowerment interwoven throughout its institutional mission” said Henry Golatt, director of UAPB’s Economic Research and Development Center. “The university has always been active in its outreach efforts to women and minority businesses and we are pleased to partner with DRA, The MMBC Continuum, and other local stakeholders in this endeavor to create a sustainable business and economic development model that includes and engages small and historically disadvantaged businesses.”