Arkansas has a pro-business government working to make it easier for companies to expand, locate, relocate and thrive within the state.
From a technology accelerator to the expansion of the Minority Business Enterprise Certification Program, the Arkansas legislature recently passed several laws that encourage economic development.
Below are the most notable recent laws passed in Arkansas that directly and indirectly create economic opportunity and generate positive growth throughout the state.
Targeting Growth in the State’s Innovation and Technology Sector
The Arkansas Business and Technology Accelerator Act provides discretionary grants up to $250,000 for eligible applicants administering a business and technology accelerator. Business and technology accelerators are full-time, immersive programs administered to potentially invest in, mentor and accelerate commercial development of startup businesses.
The Arkansas Small Business Innovation Research Matching Grant Program provides discretionary grants of up to 50 percent of the amount of a federal Small Business Innovation Research grant: up to $50,000 for Phase I and $100,000 for Phase II. Targeted activities include advanced materials and manufacturing systems; agriculture, food and environmental sciences; biotechnology, bioengineering and life sciences; information technology; transportation logistics; and bio-based products.
An amendment to the Arkansas Acceleration Fund Act of 2011 changes the Fund’s advisory body from the Arkansas Research Alliance to the Board of Directors for AEDC’s Division of Science and Technology. This $30 million fund allocates spending for the Arkansas Business and Technology Accelerator, as well as the Arkansas Small Business Innovation Research Matching Grant Program.
Incorporating Women into the Minority Business Enterprise Certification Program
The Amend the Minority Business Economic Development Act expands the Minority Business Enterprise Certification Program to include women-owned businesses and modifies diversity-spending targets. The program provides minority and women-owned business enterprises with real-world technical and professional assistance, certification, procurement, networking, capital, and contracting opportunities.
Paving the Way for Public Facilities and Infrastructure
The Partnership for Public Facilities and Infrastructure Act authorizes the formation of public-private partnerships to develop private qualifying projects for public entities. The definition of “qualifying projects” is broad and encompasses transportation infrastructure, utilities, public buildings, parking, educational facilities, administrative offices, and emergency services facilities.
Removing the Cap on State-Issued Bonds
In 2016, Arkansas voters overwhelmingly voted to amend the Arkansas Constitution to encourage job creation and expansion, and economic development by removing the limitation on the amount of state-issued bonds to attract large economic development projects. In addition to removing the previous five percent cap, the amendment allows state-issued bonds to be used for more than one project at a time, with legislative approval. It also allows local governments to collaborate with chambers of commerce and economic development groups to fund projects.