A recent workshop held at the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute, coordinated by Conway-based The Conductor, led to a report with 56 recommendations for improving the entrepreneurial environment in Arkansas.
Grace Rains, executive director of The Conductor, was a guest on this week’s Talk Business & Politics to discuss the Arkansas Entrepreneurship Policy Framework.
Rains said the working group had buy-in from a large network of stakeholders from across the state.
“Initially, we came in with a bias that we were going to have five different policy maps for the different regions. What really came out of that discussion was more rural versus urban recommendations. So what do rural entrepreneurs face versus urban entrepreneurs? We tried to integrate that into the framework, and also provide recommendations for both. Some of the issues that urban entrepreneurs face were a lack of venture capital. You know, that’s not even on the radar of those rural entrepreneurs. They’re more focused on childcare, transportation, workforce, things like that,” she said.
Licensing requirements are another issue the group wants to tackle.
“I think at the state level, absolutely. But I think there’s even issues at a local level from a code perspective that we’ve seen. The Institute of Justice has us as the third worst state when it comes to onerous licensing requirements for low-income jobs. So, you know, I think there’s a lot of work there at the local and the state level, but I think it’s removing some of those licensing requirements. It’s also just streamlining the process and making it easier for people to understand what licenses do we need and how do I achieve those licenses,” Rains said.
Another outcome from the conference centered on providing a “roadmap” for entrepreneurs to outline the licensing process and other regulatory requirements. The group also suggested that new laws and ordinances come with an “entrepreneur impact statement.”
“There’s a lot of policies, laws, even codes that go into place that don’t contemplate the effects on small business owners and entrepreneurs,” Rains said. “Our thought there was if we create a requirement to contemplate that, to just think about how is this going to impact entrepreneurs and to install a statement in all policies going forward that say, ‘this is how it affects small business,’ or ‘this is how it doesn’t affect small business. But just to contemplate that overall, because sometimes small business isn’t at the forefront of our minds, even though small business accounts for 65.1% of net new job growth. It’s definitely something that we should consider as we move forward with policy change.”
You can read the full Arkansas Entrepreneurship Policy Framework report at this link or watch Rains’ interview in the video below.