A new study shows that small businesses have been the primary driver of job growth in the Delta area of Arkansas and the U.S. as larger employers have left the region.

The report, “Jobs and Small Businesses: Job creation and loss in the federally designated Delta region,” was completed by the Delta Regional Authority and Dr. James Stapleton, Executive Director of the Douglas C. Greene Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship at Southeast Missouri State University.

The DRA report, which you can access here, analyzed unique data from the 2010 National Establishment Time-Series (NETS) database generated from Dun & Bradstreet information to assess some of the key trends driving employment.

The NETS database utilizes annual “snapshots” taken each January of over 40 million establishments throughout the country. The unique qualities of the database allowed the examination of how jobs have been created and lost in the DRA region in the eighteen-year period between January 1992 –January 2010.

Findings from the study include:

  • More than 90% of the new net Delta jobs over the past 20 years have been created by local small businesses of nine or fewer employees.
  • During the years of the Great Recession, local small businesses created over 58,000 new jobs.
  • During that same period, non-resident and non-commercial establishments eliminated nearly 368,000 jobs.
  • The “Administrative, Support and Waste Management,” and the “Arts, Entertainment and Recreation” sectors had the largest rate of change increases, with 61.3 percent and 40.1 percent increases, respectively.
  • The Delta's “Manufacturing” sector had the largest decrease losing more than 223,000 jobs, or 67.3 percent of the cumulative sector jobs.

“This report adds further proof to what many of us have been saying for a while now – small businesses and entrepreneurs are the past, present and future of the Delta economy,” Federal DRA Co-Chairman Chris Masingill said.  “Simply put, it’s the folks that start and expand local small businesses who create long-standing jobs in the region.  That’s why, if we want to have a stronger Delta economy in the future, all of us need to double down on our efforts to support – and grow – innovation and entrepreneurship across the region today.”

As a result of these findings, the DRA said it will push for more public and private stakeholder efforts and incentives in the region. The agency said it would also concentrate more resources on creating an infrastructure that increases the number of qualified entrepreneurs, accelerates new venture start-ups, and expands existing small businesses.

The Delta Regional Authority works to improve the economy and needs of 252 counties and parishes in an 8-state region that includes Arkansas, Alabama, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee.

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