Representatives from the Conductor, a local organization that drives innovation, entrepreneurship and economic empowerment, had the chance to speak with Congressman French Hill about its footprint during a meeting June 28.
During the meeting, CEO Kim Lane met with a variety of stakeholders from Searcy to discuss the Conductor’s growth and impact and its plan to bring its services to White County.
“This is a really exciting time for Searcy as it was recently chosen to be featured on Small Business Revolution Season Four,” she said. “There is a lot of exciting momentum in the city, and the Conductor is excited about bringing our services to Searcy to empower and activate new, aspiring and seasoned entrepreneurs.”
Lane took to social media to share about the meeting on July 2.
“Such an exciting day joining Congressman French HIll in Searcy to discuss the Conductor’s Rural Expansion Plan through our collaboration with the U.S. Small Business Administration,” she wrote. “So honored that the Conductor’s footprint is expanding across central Arkansas.”
Lane told the Log Cabin Democrat back in January, the Conductor, a public-private partnership with the University of Central Arkansas and Startup Junkie Consulting, received the Small Business Administration’s Regional Innovation Cluster Award for $500,000, one of seven nationwide to receive the “competitive funding.”
Each cluster, she said, include that public-private partnership with the same goals to drive innovation and job creation in targeted regional hubs.
Lane said that SBA funding will enable them to bolster offerings in central Arkansas and expand offerings to both rural and underserved areas around the region.
“Since its launch in Nov. 2016, the Conductor has reached over 9,000 people through its educational workshops and community-building events, 10 [times] [g]rowth [a]ccelerator that supports scalable Arkansas-based companies, one-on-one consulting and prototyping meetings, and [m]aker [t]rainings in its free-of-charge [m]akerspace,” she said. “The SBA funding will be pivotal for the Conductor as we expand our team and increase our offerings.”
The Conductor, Lane said, recently added two educators to explore offerings and take their educational-based services to areas around the state and is also in the process of hiring a director of operations and rural director to join its the operation.
She said with the help of the cluster award, the Conductor’s service area has now grown to a 10-county region of Arkansas, including Cleburne, Conway, Faulkner, Johnson, Logan, Pope, Pulaski, Van Buren, White and Yell.
“Through data and analysis, we have learned that many of the entrepreneurs we serve are driving long distances – sometimes multiple hours each way – to utilize our free services and offerings,” Lane said. “To reduce that geographical barrier, we wanted to find a way to bring our services to entrepreneurs and meet them where they are.”
She said that funding gives them a chance to bring their entrepreneurial support to entrepreneurs in the added counties, which encompasses 19 U.S. Treasury Department-approved Opportunity Zones, “rural regions” as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau
“Expanding our offerings into these counties means we are able to reach more entrepreneurs and reduce the geographical barrier to receiving our services,” Lane said. “The Conductor is excited to collaborate with city, state, and federal stakeholders and policymakers to design and execute its rural outreach strategy.”
In a news release, Hill expressed how proud he was to support organizations like the Conductor for providing mentorships for businesses owners and other innovators across Arkansas, their work “vital” to cultivating homegrown, small business success.
“As a recipient of the SBA’s Regional Innovation Cluster Services contract, the Conductor will be able to expand its entrepreneurial outreach and empower more Arkansans to dream big,” he said. “Together, we can continue to make central Arkansas an economic epicenter.”