In the mid-2000s, the Northeast Texas region and neighboring counties in Southwest Arkansas faced significant job losses associated with the realignment of the Red River Army Depot and Lone Star Army Ammunition Plant. In addition, the region experienced layoffs in the manufacturing and retail sectors. Key studies completed during this period—North East Texas: Building on Strengths and Working Together on Challenges (2005) and the Texarkana Regional Community Plan (2006)—highlighted the importance of entrepreneurship to the regional economy and suggested a high level of interest among affected workers in starting a business.
In an effort to bolster economic growth and job creation, Workforce Solutions Northeast Texas hired TIP to conduct an entrepreneurship assessment and devise a set of strategies to strengthen the region’s entrepreneurship initiative. As part of this assessment, TIP mapped the region’s entrepreneurial assets, identified any gaps in service, and made recommendations on how to better promote entrepreneurship in the region. TIP also designed an entrepreneur development system to meld together the various entrepreneur assistance programs that were already in place and made recommendations on creating and augmenting services to provide a more comprehensive support network for the region’s entrepreneurs. Finally, TIP assisted Workforce Solutions in developing an organizational structure to effectively implement and manage the resulting strategic plan. Following the plan’s adoption, the board requested funding to design an entrepreneurs’ portal and staff a full-time position to manage the plan’s implementation.