The Conductor and the Conway Foundation partnered with the Kauffman Foundation to host the Arkansas Entrepreneurial Policy Summit at the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute from April 27-29. The summit’s purpose was to address the specific needs of entrepreneurs in the five regions of Arkansas and identify policy solutions for local, state, and federal policymakers to adopt to lower barriers for entrepreneurship in Arkansas.
“I commend the state coming together on this great project to have a regional policy summit to support our entrepreneurs. This summit, held at the beautiful Rockefeller Institute on Petit Jean, encouraged the enhancement of our venture ecosystems and entrepreneurship here in Arkansas. Thank you to Jeff Standridge, and the Conductor for their leadership,” Congressman French Hill said.
A pre-event survey sent to Arkansas entrepreneurs guided the discussion on challenges entrepreneurs face. Regional groups from central, northwest, northeast, southwest and southeast came prepared to voice concerns from their local entrepreneurs. Statewide partners broke into each regional group to provide additional perspectives. Each region then worked on a list of issues and parallel policy recommendations to address the challenges of entrepreneurs in their area.
“Understanding the needs of entrepreneurs and the regulatory environment in which entrepreneurship is taking place is key to better support and grow small businesses in our state,” Ericka Gutierrez, Conductor outreach and engagement manager, said. “The entrepreneurial policy summit allowed for great discussions and a better understanding of challenges across the state as well as innovative ideas and solutions to address those challenges. We are looking forward to the continued collaboration and the positive change we can create when we work together for a better entrepreneurial future.”
Guest speakers included Evan Absher, Kauffman Foundation, and Congressman French Hill. The summit concluded with a panel discussion from Jeff Amerine, Startup Junkie, Clint O’Neal, and Bob Kuchevary, AEDC, and Kenny Hall, Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, moderated by Jamie Gates, Conway Area Chamber of Commerce.
“Meeting and collaborating with entrepreneurs, support organizations, and other leaders across the state was extremely beneficial. Each region of the state is facing similar challenges and opportunities; the intentionality to align and focus our efforts is and will continue to be an important investment for Arkansas,” Wilson Marseilles, Harrison Regional Chamber of Commerce vice president, said.
Following the Arkansas Entrepreneurial Policy Summit, the Conductor team will take policy recommendations made by each regional group and utilize those to update the Arkansas Entrepreneurial Policy Map. The project builds on the policy map released by the Conductor last year, which created a Four Pillar framework for advocating for policies that support entrepreneurs, innovators, and makers across the state.
The updated policy map is expected to be released later this year. The Arkansas Entrepreneurial Policy Map can be used by economic development groups, entrepreneurial support organizations, and community leaders to advocate for policies that reduce barriers for Arkansas entrepreneurs on a local, state, and national level.