PINE BLUFF, Ark. – The Economic Research and Development Center (ERDC), the full-service community economic development outreach program of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB), has partnered with Hope Enterprise Corporation to bring a micro-branch of Hope Federal Credit Union to its location at 615 S. Main street. A grand opening and ribbon cutting is slated for later this fall and will be announced jointly by UAPB-ERDC and HOPE at a later date.
Since 1994, HOPE has generated over $1.7 billion in financing for entrepreneurs, homebuyers, and community development projects, and assisted more than 130,000 individuals in low-income communities throughout the Mid-South. Through the incubator location, HOPE will be poised to offer financial services to residents while assisting ERDC in carrying out its economic and community development agenda in Pine Bluff and Southeastern Arkansas.
The organizational relationship between UAPB-ERDC and HOPE dates back to the mid-1990s and include such success as entrepreneurial training programs provided by ERDC and funded by HOPE. The placement of a HOPE branch within the UAPB Business Support Incubator advances the organizational relationship between the two agencies into a strategic partnership. The UAPB-ERDC/HOPE partnership aims to support small businesses via the Incubator and assists ERDC and UAPB in carrying out its economic and community development agenda in Pine Bluff and Southeastern Arkansas while offering financial services to residents.
The development of the branch came as a result of an initial conversation between Mr. William “Bill” Bynum, Chief Executive Officer for Hope Enterprise Corporation and Mr. Henry Golatt, ERDC Director. As a result of that conversation and with the support of mutual partnering organizations such as NeighborWorks America and the HBCU Community Development Action Coalition, the two organizations entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) October 2012. Over the past year, ERDC and HOPE have been working to define a conceptual framework that delivers a branch model that would bring additional retail banking services via an on-site retail footprint as well as a robust mobile-banking platform to the Pine Bluff market. A critical part of the concept includes the employment of UAPB students in all aspects of the operation from member services to retail banking. Golatt indicated that the resulting micro-branch allows ERDC via its partnership with HOPE to expand its impact both in terms of small business services as well as community development activities.
Golatt is optimistic that the opening of the Hope Credit Union branch is the first of many joint projects to be undertaken by the two organizations and that plans are already in motion for other such projects. He also noted that the build-out of the space that HOPE and other small businesses will be occupying was funded in part by a grant from the Delta Regional Authority.