Little Rock, Ark. – Representatives of Arkansas Capital’s Heartland Renaissance Fund and Southern Bancorp, two of the state’s prominent community development lenders in the federal New Market Tax Credits (NMTC) program, were among the administrators, students, faculty, and benefactors of the University of the Ozarks in Clarksville celebrating the April 9 dedication ceremony of the university’s newly-remodeled Thomas and Francis Wilson Science Center.
Students taking courses at the center returned for the 2022 spring semester to study in a brand-new, state-of-the-art educational and research-grade facility with larger classrooms, labs fitted with critical safety upgrades, and dedicated research areas. Completing the remodel of the center was a major milestone in the university’s pursuit of accomplishing strategic goals set forth in a $90 million master plan to accommodate future growth in student enrollment and in program offerings. According to the university, the Wilson Science Center is the single largest capital construction project in the its history.
University officials raised nearly $20 million in outside gifts and grants to remodel for the 53-year-old facility, but more funding was needed to maintain the technologies and keep courses relevant to meeting increased student and employer demand for science, technology, education, and math (STEM) program offerings.
“New Market Tax Credits allow us to keep this facility maintained and equipped with the latest technology for many years to come. Because of fully-funded projects like these, Ozarks is able to continue its commitment to keeping a high-quality, private education affordable and accessible and to limiting student debt” said University President Richard L. Dunsworth.
Launched by the U.S. Department of Treasury in 2000, the NMTC program attracts private investors by offering tax credits in return for their investment into measurable and meaningful projects benefiting the country’s most underserved areas. The university is located in a census tract defined by the federal government as being in a non-metropolitan area and “severely distressed.” For this designation, the tract must have a poverty rate greater than 30 percent with a median family income that does not exceed 60 percent of the state’s median family income. The university reports that 58 percent of its students are considered low-income. Thirty percent of students are first generation college students.
Representatives of both Arkansas Capital and Southern Bancorp met for months with both university and regional government and economic development officials to find a way to make the NMTC opportunity work for the Wilson Science Center. Together, they were able to craft a NMTC package of $19,521,135 in allocations.
“We are pleased to have partnered with Southern Bancorp to help bring this project to fruition,: said Sam Walls, III, Arkansas Capital CEO. He added that the deployment of federal tax credits for the Wilson Science Center is also a win for the NMTC program in Arkansas. “We are continually looking for impactful projects, especially in low-income areas, where local officials are struggling to find capital for projects to grow their economies. We rely on these local, state, and regional officials to give us guidance on what projects are needed in their communities; the projects that have the most impact and are best for the long term health of the community.”
“We are honored to have played a part in this outstanding collaborative effort with Arkansas Capital to benefit the University of the Ozarks students, faculty, and community,” said Darrin Williams, Southern Bancorp, Inc. CEO. “The New Markets Tax Credit program is a powerful tool for CDFIs to use in focusing much needed investment capital into places that can benefit the most from it. We look forward to seeing the long-term positive impacts of this project far into the future.”
Southern Bancorp has a proven track record of putting investment capital to work in places that need it most, and this program is a powerful tool through which we can put investment dollars to work supporting job growth and creation in financially underserved areas.”
Both Arkansas Capital and Southern Bancorp are certified by the department of Treasury as Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) and are nationally-renowned for their combined decades of experience and success in maximizing the purposes of the NMTC program. To date, Arkansas Capital has deployed $375 million and Southern Bancorp has deployed $51 million in NMTC allocations to finance projects in Arkansas and surrounding states.”