PINE BLUFF, Ark. – Jefferson County/Pine Bluff, Arkansas, home to the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, 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 (M/WBEs). UAPB’s Economic Research and Development Center (ERDC) and its Business Support Incubator have been identified by DRA as the lead agency to partner with the Mid-South Minority Business Council Continuum (The MMBC Continuum) of Memphis, Tennessee in outreaching to minority businesses in the region. This special program is sponsored by the Delta Regional Authority (DRA) and is a part of DRA’s comprehensive 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 comprising 35.5% 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% of their workforce comprised of minority employees, support for these businesses is crucial to the growth and sustainability of Delta communities.
The investment by DRA will address some of the challenges hindering M/WBEs in the Delta, such as achieving competitiveness in public and private procurement opportunities by providing a strategic training, development and assistance model through ten events in six Delta communities – Shelby County, Tennessee; Cape Girardeau County, Missouri; Madison County, Mississippi; Ouachita Parish, Louisiana; Jefferson County, Arkansas; and Jackson County, Illinois. The services provided by these events will reach a 100-mile radius of each of these counties and parishes. A minimum of 150 M/WBEs are expected to be served, providing a projected profit increase and job creation of two to three percent annually.
DRA Chairman Chris Masingill sees DRA’s investment as a way to improve and accelerate minority-owned business competitiveness by providing the tools needed for maximum community impact. “Investing in our small businesses and entrepreneurs is a key to improving economic development in the Delta region,” Chairman Masingill said. “MMBC Continuum has a strong record of building the capacity of minority and women-owned enterprises in Memphis, and I look forward to seeing the impact they can have in expanding their model throughout the Delta region to grow small business and create jobs for Delta families.”
Luke Yancy III, president and CEO of The MMBC Continuum said, “We are proud to be in partnership with the Delta Regional Authority to expand our developmental model across the Delta. We look forward to building relationships with UAPB, local agency partners, and M/WBEs to improve the economic vitality of the Delta.”
“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.”
The Delta Regional Authority is a federal-state partnership that is congressionally mandated to help create jobs, build communities, and improve lives in the 252 counties and parishes of the Delta. Through its Small Business and Entrepreneurship Initiative, the Authority has invested nearly $8 million in small businesses and entrepreneurs in the Delta, creating or retaining nearly 1,000 jobs and leveraging $13 million in other public and private investment.
UAPB-ERDC Contact: Ms. Wanda Jeter, 870-575-7116 or firstname.lastname@example.org . MMBCC Contact: Natalie Robinson, 901-525-6512 or email@example.com. DRA Contact: Spencer Lucker, 202-434-4842 or firstname.lastname@example.org.