With the support of a $100,000 seed gift from JPMorgan Chase, the University of Arizona's Eller College of Management has launched a new economic development program aimed at helping South Tucson entrepreneurs grow their businesses.
The Eller Economic Development program will partner with nonprofit agencies such as the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to identify individuals who can offer input on the specific needs of area small business owners as well as those who may benefit from the program directly.
"The program is based on a similar program offered by the University of Washington in Seattle," said Leslie Eldenburg, McClelland Professor of Accounting, who initiated the program.
According to the Small Business Administration, start-up and small businesses have generated 65 percent of the net new jobs in the U.S. over the past 17 years. However, the small business landscape also has gotten more competitive as such companies are using cutting-edge technologies to help them succeed.
"The idea is to connect existing businesses to the resources they need to thrive and grow in this environment," said Eldenburg.
Those resources will include open courses in business basics, student and faculty consulting for a rotating group of businesses, workshops on topics such as social media, individual or small group tutoring by Eller students in basic computer literacy skills, and quarterly networking events.
While Eller Economic Development is still in its infancy, Eldenburg expects it to begin ramping up this spring. A class of Eller MBA students will collaborate with the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the City of South Tucson to administer a comprehensive survey of South Tucson households.
The results of the survey will form the basis of development plans for classes, workshops, tutoring, networking events and consulting services.
"Another thing we plan to do right away is connect South Tucson business owners with students participating in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA)," Eldenburg said. As VITA volunteers, accounting students attend classes on basic tax preparation and then help other students, the elderly, and low income individuals prepare their taxes.
The initial courses are projected to be offered in late summer, with tutoring and consulting projects to kick off at the beginning of the fall semester.