EL DORADO—Budding entrepreneurs across the state and region will have the opportunity to hear from business-development experts at a free two-day conference on March 3-4 beginning at 8:00 a.m.

Nurturing the Entrepreneurial Spirit, hosted by the South West Arkansas Community College Consortium, will be held in the new El Dorado Conference Center. The consortium is made up of five community colleges: the University of Arkansas Community College-Hope, South Arkansas Community College in El Dorado, Cossatot Community College of the University of Arkansas in DeQueen, Rich Mountain Community College in Mena and Southern Arkansas University Tech in Camden.

The range of topics was selected to cater both to existing business owners and to those with an idea for a new business.

“The conference will offer a host of speakers from throughout the state ready to share information on best practices, resources and lending,” SouthArk president Dr. Barbara Jones said. “The five community colleges hosting this event wanted to provide training and resources to support their rural communities during these difficult economic times.”

Discussed will be the types of assistance available from federal and state agencies like the Small Business and Technology Development Center, the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, the Small Business Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development and the Arkansas World Trade Center.

Methods of securing capital will be addressed by state and local investors, a special session will be held for entrepreneurs who want to make money by using creative talents and several regional initiatives will be discussed.

A panel of suppliers will share how they were able to meet the needs of local industries, and attendees will receive a list of businesses that industries would like to see developed based on a recent survey.  

The hot topic of using online social media sites in business will be addressed.

In all, more than 20 local, regional and state agencies and companies will be represented. Guest speakers will include U.S. Rep. Mike Ross and Winrock International.

Additionally, attendees will receive numerous networking opportunities, and free entertainment by comedian Jeanne Robertson. Free continental breakfasts will be served each day, with free lunch on March 3.

The conference is sponsored by Arkansas Human Development Corporation, Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, USDA Rural Development, First Financial Bank and Winrock International.

“Rural communities throughout southern Arkansas are exploring ways to stimulate economic development and grow business in their areas,” Jones said. “With small businesses’ employing over 50 percent of all U.S. workers, the SWACCC Entrepreneurship Conference is being offered to help our communities to grow through encouraging small-business development and expansion.”

Registration for the event is required by Feb. 25 at www.southark.edu. For more information, call (870) 864-7192 or e-mail ">.

Conference Flyer