The 2020 South Central Arkansas Rural Business Development Conference will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, March 20. Admission is free, according to a news release.

Participants are also invited to attend the “Breakfast with the Lenders Roundtable” at 8:30 a.m., where they will network with local, regional and statewide lenders.

The panel discussion will be moderated by Herb Lawrence, lender relations specialist, Arkansas District Office of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Ryan Watley, chief executive officer of Go Forward Pine Bluff, will deliver the luncheon address.

The conference will bring together approximately 20 private, state, federal and nonprofit organizations with a singular mission of equipping small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs with the tools and resources to start and expand their businesses.

The event is open to business owners, youth entrepreneurs, business and technical school students, apprentices, veterans, faith-based leaders and community and economic development professionals.

The conference sponsors are the Arkansas Human Development Corp. (AHDC), Arkansas Procurement Technical Assistance Center (APTAC), Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center (ASBTDC), and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

Topics will include building effective business relationships, securing the right kind of capital, how to sell goods and services to the government, and how to use the many services of the ASBTDC to develop and/or expand a business.

“You will engage with other business owners, receive help with research and business planning, learn how to increase your networking results and learn to do more business with government and private industry,” according to the release. “Don’t miss the opportunity to help your community create needed jobs by learning valuable tools to help your small business grow and innovate.”

The conference is funded by the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services (ADWS), Arkansas Human Development Corporation (AHDC), and the United States Department of Agriculture, Rural Development.

Lenders invited to participate include Arkansas Capital Corp., Arkansas Economic Development Commission, Communities Unlimited, FORGE, along with Relyance Bank, Simmons Bank, and USDA, Rural Development.

The event is free, but registration is encouraged. To register, call the Arkansas Human Development Corp. at 800-482-7641 or 501-374-1103, ext. 10, or register online at .