The El Dorado Incubator Environment (known as EDIE's Village) business accelerator is a powerful new tool designed to help create jobs across the state.
The Delta Regional Authority (DRA) will invest more than $185,000 into EDIE's Village to provide support for entrepreneurs across Ashley, Bradley, Chicot, and Union counties.
Along with the DRA, the partnership will include South Arkansas Community College (SACC) and the Arkansas Women's Business Center, hosted by Winrock International. The DRA approved the project in coordination with Governor Beebe's office last month.
This investment 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 U.S. Small Business Administration and Housing and Urban Development; and
- Provide one-on-one business development and product marketing counseling for participating entrepreneurs.
"Governor Beebe often says that small businesses, and the individuals who accept the risk to begin and run them, are the backbone of the economy of this state and region," says Steve Jones, DRA Designee/Alternate for Governor Mike Beebe. "I'm pleased that the Delta Regional Authority recognizes the real potential in this investment, and what it can mean to the Arkansas Delta. The approach that EDIE's Village takes has all of the ingredients necessary for the healthy start and viability of its participant businesses."
"This funding is opening the door--both figuratively and literally--to fantastic opportunities for area business students and budding entrepreneurs," says 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 program will give SACC students a leg up in the working world once they graduate.
"We're going to have student run businesses in one of the buildings here and this building is going to be a retail place for Operation Jump Start graduates, so new small businesses will have a place for their business, if it's a retail business, to get started here," explains Dr. Jones.
Officials from the Delta Regional Authority say the investment into South Arkansas was simple.
"This creates jobs. This creates the type of jobs that stay within this region and that grow within the region," says Steve Jones.
Part of the money invested by the DRA will go toward a remodeled house where students will be using it for a t-shirt business and a place to sell jams.
"It's just a place for them to start. We don't expect that they'll stay here forever, but it will give them a place to get started and when they grow to a size that they don't fit here anymore, then they'll go get out on their own," Dr. Jones says.
Officials say the student run businesses should be up and running by this summer.
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