NORTH LITTLE ROCK, AR (News release) - Governor Mike Beebe joined state and local officials to celebrate the start of renovations for the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub through a unique “wallbreaking” ceremony.
The Innovation Hub strives to increase entrepreneurial activity by creating a network of resources, programs and education opportunities to attract, develop and retain emerging talent while building the state’s economy.
“The nature of our economy is changing, and if our state wants to compete for the best and brightest minds, we need to change the way we think and do business,” Governor Beebe said. “The Innovation Hub attracts those who think outside the box and who will forever change the economic climate in the area. They will be our business leaders of tomorrow.”
The location in the heart of North Little Rock’s Argenta Arts District at Broadway and Poplar Streets is not only convenient to downtown Little Rock’s proposed tech park, but it is also in a historic area known for coffee shops and galleries that blends art and technology. It is modeled after New Orleans’ Idea Village, which has provided direct support to more than 3,000 entrepreneurs, generated more than $100 million in annual revenue, and created more than 2,000 jobs in New Orleans since its inception in 2000.
“Our new Innovation Center builds on the best practices from successful national models to create a broad set of resources for people of all ages here in Central Arkansas,” said Warwick Sabin, executive director of the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub. “We will provide the opportunity for everyone to discover and develop their interests and talents and unlock their unlimited potential.”
The first phase, the Argenta Innovation Center, will include four components:
- The Launch Pad is a “makerspace” that will provide cutting-edge tools and technology for professionals and amateur tinkerers alike. There will be 3-D printers, laser-cutting machines, and other equipment that can be used to prototype inventions and refine products. Educational opportunities will be provided for people of all ages as well as support for local manufacturers and corporations that want to solve problems or provide additional training.
- The STEAM Lab will be operated in partnership with the EAST Initiative to offer STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education across a variety of ages and disciplines. Expertise in these areas is critical for Arkansas’s workforce to be prepared for jobs in the 21st Century. The “A” will signify the arts, because design and aesthetic expression are important parts of this mix. This classroom and laboratory will have advanced equipment and technology along with the nationally-recognized training in computer coding, programming, and computer-aided design (CAD) that EAST has provided to Arkansas students for the last 20 years.
- The Silver Mine is a co-working space for entrepreneurs and small business owners looking for networking and enrichment activities. It will also be the home to vertical business acceleration programs that will seed and mentor promising new enterprises from Arkansas and around the world. Through events and education programs, and by providing a venue where ideas can connect with capital and other resources, the Silver Mine will be able to incubate and give birth to a steady stream of new businesses.
- The Art Connection is an after-school and summer work program for high-school students designed to develop leadership and innovation through hands-on training in the visual arts industry. Modeled after the successful Artists for Humanity program in Boston, Massachusetts, the Art Connection works with arts organizations, local artists, business owners, city government and others in the community to provide practical skills for under-resourced youth.
“The Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub will provide the programming and resources necessary to further our mission of creating jobs and helping to build an innovative and technologically-advanced environment for our region’s entrepreneurs,” said Chris Masingill, Federal Co-Chairman of the Delta Regional Authority. “We are proud to join Governor Beebe and AEDC in support of this program and to invest in what will be a great opportunity for Arkansas’ small businesses and entrepreneurs.”
for more information on the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub, including the Argenta Innovation Center.