How the University of Arkansas is backing small businesses

Public-private partnerships providing help with federal loans applications and financial reviews
By: | April 8, 2020
Mary Beth Brooks, director of the University of Arkansas' Small Business and Technology Development Center, works with one of the local business clients her program is guiding through the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.Mary Beth Brooks, director of the University of Arkansas' Small Business and Technology Development Center, works with one of the local business clients her program is guiding through the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

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.


More from UB: How to block ‘Zoom bombing’ in higher ed


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.