McLean Institute Teams with Pontotoc Leaders to Help Small Businesses

M Partner event aims to connect business owners with resources and funds

M Partner volunteers serve at community day in Charleston. The University of Mississippi program that partners with local communities is working with the Pontotoc Chamber of Commerce to host Wednesday meeting to help small business owners get access to resources and funding through the CARES Act and other small business programs. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi‘s McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement is teaming up with the Pontotoc Chamber of Commerce and a bevy of state agencies to help local businesses get access to resources and funding through the CARES Act and other small business programs.

Lenders from First Choice Bank, Renasant Bank and Three Rivers Planning and Development District, as well as representatives from the McLean Institute, Mississippi Small Business Development Center, Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office, the Entrepreneurial and Innovation Center at the Mississippi Development Authority and the office of U.S. Rep. Trent Kelly, will gather Wednesday (April 28) in Pontotoc to meet one-on-one with business owners.

This type of event is crucial for small businesses owners in rural areas who don’t have the same access to information and resources, said Beth Waldo, Pontotoc Chamber of Commerce director.

“We’re realizing now these funds aren’t getting into the hands of local, mom-and-pop small businesses, and we need to be working together to make that happen,” Waldo said. “This was an ‘aha moment’ because we also want to create long-term relationships with these businesses.”

The partnership began when the McLean Institute launched the second phase of its M Partner program in Pontotoc and Ecru along the Tanglefoot Trail.

Laura Martin, M Partner director and associate director of the McLean Institute, said she was hearing that many business owners in the area were struggling to access federal relief when their businesses were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the same time, J.R. Love, project manager for the McLean Institute, said he was hearing similar things at the state level.

“The people I interact with at the state level were trying to connect with local organizations to share their resources,” Love said. “That’s a real niche we have covered at the McLean Institute. We’re engaged in communities and work closely with several state agencies.”

Waldo was only trying to help the business owners she serves access relief funds, but she hopes to see these relationships continue to flourish.

“It’s good to see this many entities working together to help local small businesses,” she said.

The event runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday at the First Choice Bank Gateway Pavilion in Pontotoc.