Groups’ policy map aims to advocate entrepreneurship to Arkansas lawmakers

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 489 views 

Two Arkansas-based groups that encourage entrepreneurs and their efforts have created a framework they hope will further support those efforts through legislative and policy improvements.

The Conductor and Startup Junkie Consulting on Tuesday (Sept. 29) released the “Arkansas Entrepreneurship Policy Map” to advocate for changes and recommendations that would reduce barriers and increase Arkansas entrepreneurs’ opportunities.

According to a news release, the document includes 44 specific recommendations on Startup Junkie’s Four Pillar approach to venture ecosystem development — talent, culture, community engagement, and capital.

Issues include eliminating SEC accredited investor rules, expanding Opportunity Zone tax benefits, and streamlining certification processes for entrepreneurs of color. An additional 16 recommendations are specifically for local, state and federal leaders, according to the release.

Startup Junkie is based in Fayetteville. The Conductor is headquartered in Conway.

“Arkansas is on the cutting edge of innovation and product development,” Jeff Amerine, managing director of Startup Junkie Consulting, said in a statement. “However, antiquated economic policies and cumbersome regulations are holding entrepreneurs back. There are particular detriments that unnecessarily limit broader participation in early-stage investment and constrain the full impact of Opportunity Zones.

“The Arkansas Entrepreneurship Policy Map is a framework we hope federal, state and local leaders will embrace as they craft legislation that is more supportive to a knowledge economy.”

“Our unique position in central Arkansas allows us to serve both urban and rural entrepreneurs,” Jeff Standridge, managing director of the Conductor, said in a statement. “Big or small, the areas that have the most vibrant venture ecosystems are those that include ordinances and programs that encourage entrepreneurship. Our Policy Map is a guide for leaders at all levels to focus on priority areas to help increase startup activity and make existing Arkansas small businesses more competitive on the global stage.”

The Arkansas Entrepreneurship Policy Map was created through the Conductor’s involvement with the Kauffman Foundation-led Start Us Up coalition, which consists of more than 190 organizations from across the nation who have united in advocating for more inclusive entrepreneurial policies.

Inspired by the Start Us Up policy agenda “America’s New Business Plan,” the document pulls from the extensive experience the Startup Junkie and Conductor teams have in empowering entrepreneurs from multiple regions and industries across the state. With input from startup stakeholders and entrepreneurs, the policy map aims to help jumpstart conversations that lead to legislative action.

“Arkansas policymakers have the opportunity to work with entrepreneurs not just to restore local economies — but to rebuild better,” said Jason Wiens, Policy Director at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. “Access to entrepreneurship is unequal today, with women, people of color, and rural residents facing extra barriers to starting a business. The Conductor’s efforts are a first step to creating a level playing field in which anyone with an idea has access to the opportunity, funding, knowledge, and support to turn it into a business.”

Because of involvement with the Start Us Up coalition, the Conductor team participated in Entrepreneur Advocacy Day 2020 and Congressional Startup Day, which provided opportunities to directly share local entrepreneurs’ stories with Arkansas governmental leaders and decision-makers. Also, Start Us Up is sponsoring a Policy Roundtable Discussion for community and government leaders to explore how to utilize the Arkansas Entrepreneurship Policy Map and make starting a business a reality for more people.

The Arkansas Entrepreneurship Policy Map is the first step in the Startup Junkie and Conductor startup advocacy initiative, according to the release.

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