| Fort Smith Times Record
University of Arkansas-Fort Smith and the Bakery District have partnered to open a regional office of the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Center in downtown Fort Smith.
Based out of the University of Arkansas Little Rock, the Small Business and Technology Center aims to help entrepreneurs launch and develop small businesses. The new office, which will be located in the Bakery District, 70 S. Seventh St., will serve clients primarily from Sebastian, Crawford and Scott counties with free consulting and market research services, according to a UAFS news release.
The Fort Smith office will be one of the 10 satellite offices for the center throughout the state. The program has assisted 250 clients from these three counties over the past two years, according to Laura Fine, state director of the center.
“With a new center, we hope to engage with more small businesses and generate a positive economic impact for the area,” Fine said.
UAFS Chancellor Terisa Riley said the school pushed for the center because of the number of people in the region who want to start small businesses. She said the center could help their educational efforts, such as pairing entrepreneurial students with resources.
The $78,000 received from the main center is in part from CARES Act funding and will go towards the first year of operation, supplies and the salary of the employee who facilitates the office, Riley said. UAFS will then pay $40,000 of this cost annually, which she said will partially come from revenue generated by memberships and special training events.
The estimated $1 million in construction costs will be funded by KMW Properties, which owns the Bakery District, KMW Manager Griffin Hanna said.
“When we found out that they were interested and had received the additional funds, we stayed in contact with them and asked them about having a center here,” Riley said. “They were thrilled.”
The office, which will have 9,000-square-feet of space over two floors, will be located behind Bookish in the space between the Maple Room and Fort Smith Coffee Co. The upstairs area will house offices and meeting space, while the downstairs space will have classrooms and space for concept learning, Hanna said.
Once complete, future and current entrepreneurs will learn about loans, credit, business plans, marketing and other tenants of opening and operating a small business.
“They can literally provide training at all different levels, from the CEO suite to a brand new employee,” Riley said.
The decision to put the center in the Bakery District “evolved over years of conversations” spurred from the involvement of KMW and its parent company, Hanna Oil & Gas, with UAFS’ Family Enterprise Center, said Hanna.
Riley described the district, which has become a hangout spot for area residents, as “a very cool place to operate.”
“It’s very convenient to the convention center, to hotels, to restaurants,” she said.
In addition to helping entrepreneurs, Hanna said the office will help generate foot traffic at the Bakery District. It helps further the “live, work, play” philosophy he and his family are trying to achieve with the area.
He also spoke highly of UAFS as a tenant in the Bakery District.
“We literally cannot believe we were able to get the conversation to where it currently is,” Hanna said.