How the University of Arkansas is backing small businesses

Public-private partnerships providing help with federal loans applications and financial reviews

The moods of local small business owners during the coronavirus economic crisis can be ranked on a scale from “anxious to terrified,” says Joe Steinmetz, chancellor of the University of Arkansas.

To help, the university’s Small Business and Technology Development Center and the Northwest Arkansas Council have created the Small Business Emergency Assistance program to provide triage-style services to small businesses and nonprofit organizations trying to survive the disruption to the economy.

“This outreach is right smack in the middle of the service mission we have,” Steinmetz told University Business. “It helps us prove our worth as a public institution that’s here for the public good.”

The partners got the program up and running in about a week, Steinmetz adds, and are now providing a range of free services:

  • Assistance with emergency loan applications
  • Financial reviews
  • One-on-one counseling
  • Market research
  • Educational outreach
  • Business planning
  • Liaison to government agencies and lending institutions

The program’s’ staff of 14 includes an accountant, a strategic planner, and consultants in leadership, HR and banking. An additional team of business specialists is also offering pro-bono services, Steinmetz adds.

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The initiative, which has already assisted around 200 clients, is being funded by the Walton Family Foundation, while major corporations such as Walmart, J.B. Hunt and Tyson are offering other support.

“It’s not only brand new small businesses, it’s also businesses that have existed for several years that never seen this kind of unprecedented situation,” Steinmetz says. “I think the work of this center is helping a little bit to reduce their anxiety, particularly in helping them secure the resources needed to keep on going.”

UB’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on higher ed.

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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