SBA partnership: Council approves strategic alliance agreement
By Samantha Jones
If you'd like to start or grow a small business, Eureka Springs City Council has your back.
The council voted Monday night to approve a strategic alliance memorandum with the United States Small Business Administration. Mayor Butch Berry introduced the idea, saying the memorandum came out of Washington D.C. and is meant to help those in various stages of owning a small business.
"When I first moved to Eureka Springs and got out of college, SBA helped me get a loan to buy my building in downtown Eureka," Berry said. "There wouldn't have been a way I could afford to do that."
The council heard from SBA district director Edward Haddock, who is based out of Little Rock. Haddock said SBA is interested in working with small business owners in Eureka Springs to build a multi-year partnership.
"We want to make sure all small businesses start out on the right footing with access to financing from the lowest dollar loans of $500 to $5 million," Haddock said. "We're also here to support the community in contracting to sell their goods and services to the government. We want to make sure Eureka Springs and its small businesses are represented in that market."
SBA provides one-on-one training, Haddock said, and hopes to work with Heart of Eureka, a group of downtown merchants.
"Signing this strategic alliance … will kick us off into a great multi-year partnership," Haddock said.
Alderwoman Mickey Schneider asked if SBA offers loans for people to start a business, saying she didn't see anything about it in the memorandum.
"We do," Haddock said. "This is really to define our partnership. We're going to bring all the services we offer, and that includes the loan guarantee programs."
SBA works with many federal agencies to help small business owners, Haddock said.
"That could be NASA," he said. "That could be the VA."
Alderman Harry Meyer asked about high-speed internet.
"City-wide we have a problem with that," Meyer said. "It's not very good."
While SBA can't put high-speed internet in place, Haddock said, the organization can work with its partners to make that happen.
"Our rural development folks have resources for that," Haddock said. "My goal would be to connect you directly to them. It's essential for small businesses to get online."
Alderwoman Susan Harman asked if several business can join together to work with SBA, and Haddock said SBA wants to work with everyone.
"It's not just us and the city," Haddock said. "It's us and all the small businesses here."
"This isn't for the city to go out and get money or grants," Berry said. "This is the opportunity for individuals within the city to apply and receive loans."
Jeff Salzar, who works with SBA's Northwest Arkansas affiliate, said he's excited to work with small business owners in Eureka Springs.
"Eureka's a special place. You want to grow businesses and SBA wants to help," Salzar said. "We want to make sure entrepreneurs have every opportunity they can."
It's vital for local banks to be part of the partnership, Haddock said.
"If our local banks aren't doing SBA, we can't get it to the businesses that need it the most," Haddock said. "We've got to not only educate our bankers but educate these small businesses that resources are available."
Berry said that shouldn't be a problem.
"All the banks working in Eureka Springs are familiar with the organization and have committed to SBA," Berry said.
McClung moved to approve the strategic alliance memorandum, and the council unanimously voted to do so.
Also at the meeting, the council deferred a decision to appoint a council member to the planning commission after approving two new members for the commission. Alderwoman Melissa Greene said it is unnecessary to have a council member on the commission so long as the commission can meet quorum.
"Maybe the only time council should go back is if they're in desperate need of a quorum," Greene said.
"I agree," Meyer said. "We solved our little problem."
Alderman Bob Thomas moved to put the vote aside until the commission has four members or less, and the council voted 4-2 to do so.
In other business, the council voted to create a committee to consider establishing an entertainment district in Eureka Springs. Berry said the committee will include eight representatives from various areas of the community.
The council's next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, July 22, at the Auditorium.