Summer 2014 Update

In 2011, Southern Bancorp Community Partners (SBCP), a development lending affiliate of Southern Bancorp, received a three year grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Rural Innovation Fund (RIF) to promote economic development in Phillips County, Arkansas. The projects below were designed by SBCP using national research and community input. For more information, contact Brooke Gerber at [email protected].

Helena Start-Up Challenge

The Helena Start-Up Challenge identifies entrepreneurs with promising business concepts and awards them with up to $25,000 in seed capital to start their businesses in Helena-West Helena. The program was implemented in two rounds: 2013 is complete, and 2014 was launched in August.

Current Status

  • The 2013 first place winner ($25,000) was ShelWes Tools, a manufacturer of the patented Automatic Contour Sander (ACS), an auto body sander that conforms to irregular or curved surfaces.
  • The 2013 second place winner ($15,000) was Bella Blues, an upscale clothing boutique with designs for women located in Helena’s historic downtown.
  • The 2014 Helena Start-Up Challenge launched this month and is accepting applications until September 30th.

Helena Jobs Incentive

The Helena Jobs Incentive was designed to stimulate local economic activity by providing financial incentives to companies that create new jobs in Helena-West Helena. Financial incentives average $5,000 per new job created.

Current Status

  • Since the program’s launch in January 2014, SBCP has approved six applications for a total of 45 jobs.
  • The first awardee, Norac, Inc., recently received its $82,500 incentive award which will be used to purchase tools and equipment for its blend plant expansion. This expansion will allow the company to create 11 new jobs.
  • An additional five awards were approved in August, and SBCP is finalizing their performance contracts.
  • Enviro Tech has received its $100,000 incentive award for the creation of 22 new jobs. These positions are in addition to those previously  announced with the company’s $7 million expansion at Helena Harbor.

Riverside Renewal Project

The Riverside Renewal Project was designed to accelerate the revitalization of downtown Helena by matching investments in commercial and residential properties dollar-for-dollar from a $500,000 award fund, with awards of up to $100,000.

Current Status

  • By the March 31, 2014 deadline, SBCP had received 11 applications requesting more than $720,000 in match funding requests from local, regional and out-of-state applicants.
  • Six projects were prioritized for the $500,000, including a coffee shop/cafe, retail and loft apartments.
  • Awardees thus far include:
    • Bella Blues, a new women’s clothing boutique on historic Cherry St.
    • Matt Inman, for the renovation of a historic Cherry St. building to include a loft apartment and first floor retail space.
    • Teach for America, for the completion of their new office building in downtown Helena, which in addition to housing TFA staff will also serve as a public community center.
    • The remaining awardees are pending various reviews.

Community Champions

The Community Champions program was designed to aid in the recruitment and retention of quality public service professionals in the community by providing down payment or renovation assistance to teachers, nurses, police officers, fire fighters, and others who are first-time home buyers in Helena-West Helena. In return, these Community Champions agree to continue living in their homes and working in their professions for two years.

Current Status

  • Launched  in August 2014, SBCP has already received 4 applications which are under review.
  • Incentive awards are already being issued (I left this kind of vague because the numbers will be changing quickly. We have 2 issued and about 8 pending.)
  • SBCP continues to accept applications.

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