The Delta Regional Authority (DRA) will invest nearly $200,000 into the El Dorado Incubator Environment – known as EDIE's Village – to provide support for entrepreneurs across Ashley, Bradley, Chicot, and Union counties in south Arkansas. Other contributors to the partnership include South Arkansas Community College and the Arkansas Women's Business Center hosted by Winrock International.
The investment, which totals a little more than $185,000, is being allocated through the DRA's States Economic Development Assistance Program. It will:
- Develop student-run business, expecting 25-30 students to participate in the program
- Launch retail space for 20 local entrepreneurs in a low-cost environment for businesses to sell products
- Leverage additional resources from the SBA and HUD
- Provide one-on-one business development and product marketing counseling for participating entrepreneurs
A report released last month by the DRA showed 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 study showed that 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.
“This investment honors the hard work of our region's small businesses and entrepreneurs,” said DRA Chairman Chris Masingill. “They are truly the lifeblood of the Delta economy – starting and expanding small businesses that create jobs in good times and in bad. Business incubators like EDIE's Village will be on the front lines of that growth, helping these businesses create jobs today and a stronger Delta economy for years to come.”
“This funding is opening the door-both figuratively and literally-to fantastic opportunities for area business students and budding entrepreneurs,” said Dr. Barbara Jones, President of South Arkansas Community College. It will be a capstone learning experience, and we're fortunate to be able to offer it in our community. We at SouthArk see EDIEs Village as an investment in our own economic future.”
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 across an eight-state region that includes Arkansas.