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Governor Beebe's Weekly Column and Radio Address: Small Businesses, Big Potential


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Arkansas is open for business. It's a message our Arkansas Economic Development Commission works hard to convey, not only to large companies worldwide, but also to potential entrepreneurs right here in Arkansas. Now, we have even more evidence that supports that message, and it comes directly from our business owners. According to a new survey, Arkansas is the second-easiest state to start a business in. The study also showed that our existing small businesses are the third-healthiest and second-fastest growing in the nation.

More than 6,000 business owners nationwide participated in the survey, which was organized by the Kauffman Foundation, the world's largest entrepreneurship organization, and small-business Web site The overwhelmingly positive responses from Arkansas's small business leaders speak confidently to the strength of the state's economy and its growth potential.

Small businesses continue to be the backbone of our economy. They employ more than half-a-million Arkansans and account for 97 percent of all businesses in our State. That's why fostering entrepreneurship is such an important part of our state's Strategic Plan for Economic Development. The State has tools to support small businesses, and I believe that those resources account for much of the reason Arkansas ranked so well in this survey.

Through the State, entrepreneurs can receive assistance with business plans, with marketing and with finding access to capital investment. There are mentorship programs, classes that focus on doing business with the State, and even a boot camp for small, technology-based, start-up companies.

Additionally, last December, I announced that the State received $13.1 million in federal funds for lending and guaranteeing loans for small and minority businesses, among other things. Each dollar is expected to leverage at least another ten dollars in private funding. The potential result is an additional $130 million to help build Arkansas's small businesses.

Not surprisingly, the survey also found a connection between business friendliness and a low level of state debt. Arkansas has the fourth-lowest debt per capita of any state in the nation. Our responsible fiscal management has also made us one of only four states to enter the past two fiscal years without a projected budget shortfall. This stability puts Arkansas in position for economic growth, because companies want to invest where there is little risk of fluctuating tax-policies. In fact, the consistency of Arkansas's business climate has been cited by companies choosing to invest or expand here as a reason they felt confident creating jobs in our State.

This latest survey shows that our small business owners share the same confidence in Arkansas that executives of large companies have expressed. I'm confident, too. Our stability positions us for opportunities to lead as we continue to emerge from a national recession. That same opportunity awaits any Arkansan who has a business idea and a belief in the strength of our State. Much of our past business success has been built on the ideas of entrepreneurs; there's every reason to think that the next great idea will come from a homegrown Arkansas business, too.

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