BLYTHEVILLE, Ark., Aug. 11, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Small-town America has gotten even smaller in recent years, and Blytheville, Arkansas, is no exception. The community of some 15,000 people in northeast Arkansas shrunk by 14 percent, according to U.S. Census reports from 2000 and 2010. But residents, local leaders, and small-business owners have joined together in an effort to reverse the trend.
One success story is the makeover of Day's Clothing Store at 322 West Main Street. The store's owner was retiring last year and sought a buyer for the popular store. The shop, specializing in men's traditional clothing, was purchased in December 2014 by Greg and Beverly Rogers. They secured funding through a loan from Farmers Bank & Trust that was funded by an Economic Development Program (EDP) advance from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas (FHLB Dallas). Mr. and Mrs. Rogers also received a $25,000 FHLB Dallas EDPPlus grant.
Noncompetitive EDPPlus grants are awarded in conjunction with EDP advances through FHLB Dallas members, like Farmers Bank & Trust in Blytheville. The grants are available on a first-come, first-served basis to promote and enhance small-business development and job creation.
"Our community, like a lot of rural America, continues to shrink in population," said Randy Scott, president and chief operating officer of Farmers Bank & Trust. "When the prior owners of Day's Clothing decided to retire, chances were, another retail business on Main Street would close. With the EDPPlus grant and loan funded by an EDP advance, not only did we give Greg and Beverly a chance to own a retail business, we gave Blytheville a chance to keep another business open on Main Street."
Yet, keeping business as usual wasn't in the plans for Mr. and Mrs. Rogers, who were first-time business owners. To start, they retained the prior owner as a consultant, who guides them through the process of buys at market, which happen six months in advance of a season. Mr. Rogers said they also "re-merchandised the store, repainted the interior, and got away from the ordinary." Sales are up compared to last year, and the couple has added two employees, he noted.
"Our immediate thoughts were that we had to attract a younger crowd. To bring in new prospects and vendors, you have to have capital," Mr. Rogers said. "We decided to apply the EDPPlus grant to pay down our principal." The EDP-funded loan was used to purchase the building.
In 2014, FHLB Dallas provided nearly $1 million in grants through 25 member institutions to assist 49 small businesses. In 2015, FHLB Dallas has made another $1 million available for EDPPlus grants, assisting another 50 small businesses.
Tucker Nunn, executive director of Main Street Blytheville, said the new owners are doing a great job with the business that "would have been hard to replace" if it had closed.
"The Rogerses are people who have a passion and are good at what they do," Mr. Nunn said. "They've done wonderful things in taking a traditional men's store and turning it into a boutique. People come from outside the area to shop here."
Requirements of the EDPPlus grant program put the new owners in touch with Laura Miller, center director of the Arkansas State University Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC). She helped them analyze the store's historical financial data and use the historical averages to develop financial projections. She also reviewed their business plan and offered feedback.
"The EDP advance and EDPPlus grant from FHLB Dallas have enabled business owners to start and grow their businesses with less debt," Ms. Miller said. "Both are great resources, resulting in financially stronger businesses that support community growth."
Greg Hettrick, vice president and director of Community Investment at FHLB Dallas, agreed, saying the EDP advance and grant program support economic development activities, which improve the quality of life in communities.
"The EDP advance is a competitively priced loan that allows small-business owners to enhance the investments they make in their businesses," he said. "The related EDPPlus grant is a very unique equity infusion. It benefits small businesses and our members, who are able to offer what other institutions typically cannot."
About Farmers Bank & Trust
Farmers Bank & Trust was established in 1908 and stands today as the second-oldest existing business in Blytheville. The Bank has continued to expand and grow, becoming the largest financial institution in the Greater Blytheville area. Today, there are five branches and ATM locations in the Blytheville/Gosnell area. In addition, Farmers Bank has expanded its services to the Nashville, Tennessee, area and currently has two branches operating in that area.
About the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas
The Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas is one of 11 district banks in the FHLBank System, created by Congress in 1932. FHLB Dallas, with total assets of $42.6 billion as of June 30, 2015, is a member-owned cooperative that supports housing and community development by providing competitively priced loans and other credit products to approximately 865 members and associated institutions in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Texas. For more information, visit fhlb.com.
Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas
SOURCE Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas