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10.29.21 –  Arkansas Democrat

UALR to be hub for funds

A $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration will support targeted outreach for small businesses in underserved communities in Arkansas, the federal agency announced in a news release Thursday.

Funding will be deployed under the auspices of the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center housed at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock as a result of the grant program’s hub-and-spoke system, according to the release.

With UALR’s center acting as the hub, six local entities will serve as spokes, the agency said.

They are the Arkansas Human Development Corporation, the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, the Central Arkansas Library System, East Arkansas Enterprise Community, Phoenix Youth and Family Services and the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service.

“We know that not all groups and individuals have had the resources and capital needed to start or grow their businesses,” Michael Singleton, associate state director for the UALR center, said in a statement included with the release. “We are excited about the opportunity to utilize this program to ensure all Arkansas entrepreneurs and small business owners have the tools and resources to succeed.”

According to the news release, the UALR center expects more than 5,000 new and existing small businesses will receive training and technical assistance over the two-year grant program.

The Small Business Administration funding is being deployed nationwide under the agency’s Community Navigator Pilot Program as part of the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan Act, which lawmakers approved in March.

A separate news release Thursday from the Small Business Administration said $100 million in funding will go to 51 grantees around the country that will in turn work with local groups to aid entrepreneurs.

The 51 grantees, dubbed “Community Navigators,” fall into one of three categories: Tier 1 recipients will receive up to $5 million, Tier 2 up to $2.5 million and Tier 3 up to $1 million.

The small business center at UALR is one of 11 grant recipients in Tier 2.

Over the next two years, the Central Arkansas Library System will receive $125,000 per year for a total of $250,000 to support its Rock It! Lab entrepreneurship program, according to Eliza Borné, the library system’s director of development.

“This is an exciting investment in Rock It! Lab and a testament to the strength and vision of the folks leading that program,” she wrote in an email Thursday.

The Rock It! Lab held its ribbon-cutting in July. The library system’s start-up hub geared toward women- and minority-owned businesses is housed in the Cox Building in the River Market District.