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SBDC Has Vast Resources to Help Small Businesses.

JANET M. NYE IS ALL TOO familiar with Arkansas' traditional place at or near the bottom of all sorts of statistical rankings of the 50 states.

The head of the Arkansas Small Business Development Center in Little Rock says, though, that her office is an exception to what so often seems to be the rule.

"We're ranked as one of the top five in the nation ... probably even higher than that, but you don't want to brag too much," said Nye, whose program is administered through the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. "We've got a lot of really good people working here."

That's been true, she said, since long before she took the job seven years ago after roughly five-year stints at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks and then the University of Hawaii at Hilo.

Arkansas' program, which. began in 1979, was one of the first in the nation to take shape, especially since a pilot-program approach existed in the state a couple of years before that. Since then, Arkansas "has really had one of the leading programs in the country, and we are still recognized as one of the leading [Small Business Administration] developers," Nye said.

Nye succeeded Paul McGinnis, who had been on board since 1982. She attributes part of the Arkansas program's success to that sort of continuity at the helm.

UALR receives the $740,000 SBA grant to run the program in the state, matched with 50 percent local money and 50 percent in-kind services in the form of clerical salaries. About $1.2 million is spent annually on payroll, Nye said.

The center's seven regional offices -- in Fort Smith, Harrison, Hot Springs, Magnolia, Pine Bluff, Stuttgart and Osceola -- are operated through UALR. The center con tracts with three subcenters, providing $62,000 to the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, $52,000 to Arkansas State University at Jonesboro, and $21,000 to Henderson State University at Arkadelphia, all of which "overmatch [those amounts]significantly," Nye said.

The center's 2000 annual report cites an economic study reporting that small businesses assisted by the center created 541 jobs last year, increased sales by $44.4 million and generated $3.5 million in state and federal taxes.

As a rough rule of thumb, the center defines a small business as one with about 100 employees. Even so, "our typical small business generally has 25 or fewer," Nye said. A lot are home-based, mom-and-pop operations.

"We work real closely with the SBA," she said. "We assist them in holding bankers' symposiums ... be cause we have people out in the field working with bankers every day."

In addition, "a large percentage of our clients' loans -- about 80 percent on average every year -- are SBA guaranteed," she said.

At its lead office at 100 S. Main St., Suite 401, in downtown Little Rock, the center features an information center for research or information, with more than 3,000 resources, including books, periodicals, newsletters, audio and videotapes and CD-ROM data-bases.

That makes it the state's largest re pository of information on small businesses, Nye said, and what its Web site calls "one of the best sources for business information" in all of Arkansas. Materials offered can help businesses develop personnel policy manuals, ex port strategies, loan proposals, business plans, marketing plans, budgets and industry comparisons.

The center's Web site says it also offers "free one-to-one professional consulting" on such topics as "advice on operating challenges in existing businesses, review of business plans and strategies, guidance in new business start-ups, advice on purchases of existing businesses, preparation of loan re quests, financial analysis and budget development."

Along with the center's Web site's at, "our major source of referrals comes from the bankers," Nye said. Prospective loan applicants have "gone in and they want to start a business, and [loan officers] say, 'Do you have a plan,' and [would-be borrowers] say, "No, but I've got a good idea.'"

The Web site's "BizFacts" page alone includes 288 documents in 19 categories, including "Financing Your Business," "Starting a Business in Arkansas," "Recordkeeping and Managing Business Finances," "Taxes," "Buying or Selling a Business," "Marketing and Advertising," "Selling to Government" and "Family Owned Businesses."

"I think it's one of the best small-business resources on the Web," she said.
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Title Annotation:Arkansas Small Business Development Center
Comment:SBDC Has Vast Resources to Help Small Businesses.(Arkansas Small Business Development Center)
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U7AR
Date:Apr 16, 2001
Previous Article:Bank of the Ozarks Inc.

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