Report: Small firms play big role in job creation

Nearly all of the new jobs that were created in the Mississippi River Delta from 1992 to 2009 came from businesses with nine or fewer employees, according to a new report.

The study released by the Delta Regional Authority and conducted by James Stapleton, executive director of the center for entrepreneurship at Southeast Missouri State University, found that 91 percent of new jobs in a 252 parish and county region were created by small businesses. In contrast the U.S. Small Business Administration said that during roughly the same period, 65 percent of new jobs nationally were created by small businesses, which are defined as having fewer than 500 employees.

Christopher Masingill, co-chairman of the DRA, a federal-state partnership that provides economic development opportunities across the Mississippi River Delta, said the statistics show the importance of small businesses locally “in good times and bad times.”

“These are people that know the local economy,” he said.

Masingill, who was in Baton Rouge on Wednesday to tour the Louisiana Business and Technology Center at LSU, said small companies play more of a role in job creation in the Mississippi Delta compared with the rest of the nation because so much of the area is rural.

Because of the outsized role these small firms play in adding more jobs to the region, it’s important that entrepreneurship is encouraged, Masingill said. “Access to affordable capital is still very difficult for microlenders and entrepreneurs.”

The DRA was formed in 2000, although its roots go back to the Lower Mississippi Delta Development Commission, which was established in 1988 and chaired by former President Bill Clinton, then governor of Arkansas.

The organization has been able to take federal funds and leverage them with help from local governments and the private sector to pay for public infrastructure, transportation, work force training, education and small business development projects. Masingill said over the years the DRA has been able to leverage $2 billion in projects, with $704 million coming from Louisiana alone.

Helping out the Delta region is important, Masingill said.

“There are a lot of good things going on here in this part of the world,” he said.