Arkansas Small Businesses Thinking Big

January 01, 1997

When local entrepreneurs, banks and governments in Arkansas realized they needed to find a better way to gather the views and assess the needs of small business, they didn't just talk about the problem—they took action. By forming the Arkansas Small Business Coalition last summer, these groups are helping small businesses network for opportunities to trade with government and large corporations, while also promoting their success stories.

Little Rock entrepreneur Mary Ann Campbell's involvement with the National Women's Business Coalition in Washington convinced her a similar coalition in Arkansas was just what small firms needed to supply information about job opportunities and the conditions that apply in making those opportunities possible. Campbell knows firsthand the frustrations of small business owners when dealing with regulations, lack of knowledge of available resources, and how financial assistance is not always targeted to the most pressing needs. After being encouraged by Little Rock city staff members, Campbell approached Sam Hinton, vice president of NationsBank. Hinton not only embraced the idea, but offered ideas to expand Campbell's vision that included a small business data base. With NationsBank's financial and staff backing, the idea became a reality.

In addition to maintaining a database of small businesses and service providers, the Coalition's goals include:

  • creating an environment that supports small business development by defining issues and opportunities that affect small businesses and offering challenges and solutions to policy makers and community leaders;
  • strengthening the capacity of small businesses by providing information on funding and business opportunities;
  • extending support to small businesses by identifying how existing or additional services can better meet their needs; and
  • promoting collaboration among small business, government, and industry by creating a communication network to allow rapid dissemination of information, views and action needed.

Several business owners have begun to build the Pulaski County Chapter of the Coalition and have already successfully facilitated communication between small business owners and public policy makers. The Coalition Hopes to have a chapter in every county and to become a statewide information clearinghouse.

All small businesses are encouraged to join and become a part of the Coalition's database. There is no membership fee, and attendance at meetings is optional. Members can participate in surveys, identify opportunities and issues, and learn about resources available to small businesses. There are several ways to access the information provided by the Coalition: via website at; toll-free at (888) 802-7722; fax at (888) 792-7722; or monthly meetings.

Bridges is a regular review of regional community and economic development issues. Views expressed are not necessarily those of the St. Louis Fed or Federal Reserve System.

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