A regional administrator from the US Small Business Association paid a visit to Pine Bluff Thursday to educate local business owners on how to obtain credit and compete for government contracts.
Ted James, an agent for President Biden who oversees Region 6 (south-central US) of the SBA, told locals at downtown Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Library that he “strongly believes” that any problem in of any community could be solved through access to capital.
“I’m very keen to make sure the little guy has a chance to get a return on the tax money that’s been sent to Washington, DC,” James said.
Small business advisors, including those from the SBA’s Arkansas District Office and the Arkansas Small Business Technology Development Center (ASBTDC), met with business owners for about two hours and shared how the district office saved more than $10 billion from Covid -19 federal disasters has provided support for Arkansas-based borrowers in fiscal 2022. Small business in America is a $2 trillion industry and the average loan approved by the SBA is $1 million, say officials.
“Small businesses are 500 employees or fewer from the SBA perspective,” said Jerry Talbert, assistant district director of the Arkansas SBA.
SBA officials promoted 8(a) Business Development, a nine-year program designated under Section 8(a) of the Small Business Act that helps businesses owned by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals compete and have “equal access to contract opportunities” an online program schedule.
“It’s about leveling the playing field to have the most impact in the areas that need it most, to level the playing field so they can get that contract from a single source,” Talbert said.
In the past three years, Talbert said, government contracts with small businesses in Arkansas have increased from $8 million to $60 million. Currently, he said, 13 companies are under contract with government agencies.
“We do this through direct personal contact with our buyers,” said Talbert.
Some local leaders, such as Codney Washington, a several small business owner who is also the interim director of The Generator in Pine Bluff, attended to gain valuable information and share it with fellow entrepreneurs.
“We’re also partners with Communities Unlimited and ASBTDC, so we work with those organizations to help businesses get where they need to be,” Washington said. “Rather, my goal is to help other businesses in Pine Bluff establish themselves and get what they need to operate.”
Angelisa Henry heads the ASBTDC’s Pine Bluff office, located on the second floor of the UAPB Business Support Incubator and Office Complex at 615 S. Main, directly across from the library. The Pine Bluff office, one of 11 ASBTDC locations, opened in January and serves the UAPB and Jefferson, Arkansas, Monroe and Phillips counties.
“Anyone who is at any stage in their business can come,” Henry said. “They can come when they have an idea, or they can come because they’re already in business, or they can come because they’ve already started the process at their bank. But fundamentally, our intent is to offer resources and tools to ensure you are equipped to take your package to the bank to seek credit and credit and financing for your specific business. So we help with business plans, many different webinars and courses to give them the information they need to be well equipped to sustain and start their businesses and to seek financing for their businesses.”
On average, Henry’s office works with 20 to 30 companies, she estimates, but she wants to increase that number.
“We’re here, we’re open, and we’re willing to welcome new people no matter where they are in their business,” Henry said. “We are here to help them.”
The services presented during the meeting, including business development and lending, are free.
To reach Pine Bluff ASBTDC, call (870) 575-8033. For more information about the Arkansas District Office of the SBA, visit sba.gov/ar.