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Governor Beebe's Weekly Column and Radio Address: Investing in Small Business


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Throughout our state's history, our success has been built upon investment in small businesses, businesses that later grew into national and global success stories.

Recently, Arkansas's own Diamond State Ventures was named the Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration. This Little Rock-based firm was recognized for its excellent performance, strong commitment to small businesses and management of portfolio companies. Diamond State was quick to share credit for the award with Arkansas investors.

While small businesses may find opportunities for growth, they often need private investment to expand staff, purchase new equipment, and develop new products and services. Traditionally, Arkansas has been an underserved market for this type of growth capital. But, since 1999, Diamond State Ventures has been helping small businesses in Arkansas overcome the hurdles that so often stunt the growth of businesses looking to expand.

As the only SBIC fund manager in the State, Diamond State Ventures has already invested more than $35 million in 18 Arkansas-based companies that employ more than 2,000 Arkansans. In the past 12 years, the company has developed a nationwide co-investor network that has brought more than $60 million of private investment to our State.

When Aviation Repair Technologies decided to expand its operations in Blytheville, Diamond State provided the capital investment needed to add 300 jobs and purchase additional equipment. The growing company had the support of state-and-local government, but needed private capital in order to expand.

Diamond State Ventures has also invested in the health-care industry in Arkansas. Both Cantrell Drug Company and Healthscope Benefits, Inc. have seen tremendous growth in the past several years. To meet a rapidly-growing demand for pharmacy services, Cantrell Drug used this private equity to triple its staff and move to a facility five times larger. Healthscope Benefits also leveraged its investment, adding 50 new jobs and growing to become the nation's fourth-largest administrator of insurance claims.

As motivated and hard-working Arkansas students enter the workforce, we encourage them to seek out fast-paced, high-growth industries in which they can rapidly advance. Young entrepreneurs and innovative researchers will likely need to pursue private investment as their companies reach critical growth stage. Companies, like Diamond State Ventures, provide avenues for expansion and help keep our talented workforce in Arkansas.

As they have for generations, small businesses continue to provide the foundation for strong and prosperous communities, anchored by local partnerships throughout the State. Diamond State Ventures is an example of private investment serving to amplify those efforts, to build from that foundation and offer Arkansas businesses a springboard to reach new heights. Dreaming big is an Arkansas tradition, and the continued commitment to small businesses by capital investors will help that tradition flourish and remain strong.

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