Walton, Southern Bancorp push Delta development

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The Walton Family Foundation announced Monday that it is partnering with Southern Bancorp Community Partners to promote economic development in the Delta.

The foundation’s $750,000 investment will support Southern Bancorp’s efforts to provide much-needed capital to small businesses in Phillips County, Ark., and Coahoma County, Miss., the foundation said in a news release.

“Access to capital often challenges small businesses in the Delta region,” said Karen Minkel, Home Region Program director for the Walton Family Foundation. “This infusion of funds will help fill a critical gap in sustaining and growing these economic engines.”

The federal Small Business Administration reports that small-business lending in Southern Bancorp’s market has dropped considerably since 2000, the release said.

From 2000-2013, the number of small-business loans decreased by 38 percent in Arkansas and 63 percent in Mississippi. Also, many banks have shown reluctance to finance small businesses, especially those that need $100,000 or less in loan capital, the foundation said.

Without access to funding, many ventures are unable to purchase inventory and equipment, expand their physical spaces, hire additional employees, upgrade their systems or grow their operations, the release noted.

“For many businesses in the Delta, financial access has significantly decreased or disappeared,” said Darrin Williams, CEO of Southern Bancorp, Inc., SBCP’s development partner. “Our mission is to ensure this access exists in places that need it most, and this investment from the Walton Family Foundation will greatly enhance that ability.”

The press release said that SBCP will leverage the foundation’s investment to provide a total of $1.5 million in loans in the two counties.

The Walton Family Foundation also has provided funding to Mississippi Today.