Battelle Study: Arkansas Poised to Grow Knowledge-Based Economy

by Mark Carter  on Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012 1:20 pm  

Arkansas Research Alliance Director Jerry Adams says the state's startup ecosystem needs "more permanent, strategic funding."

A new study says Arkansas is poised to increase its knowledge-based economy and create more high-paying jobs.

Arkansas has seen 135 companies with more than 1,200 employees created in "knowledge economy" industries since 2008, according to a Battelle Institute study commissioned by the Arkansas Research Alliance with other state agencies and released Tuesday.

The entire economic development report is available here for download (PDF).

The report, unveiled by Gov. Mike Beebe and state officials from his conference room at the state Capitol, aims to gauge the progress made in Arkansas since the 2009 launch of a long-term, statewide plan to develop "knowledge-based" jobs.

Arkansas has made progress since then, the report says, and now is "well positioned" to boost its university research output, widen paths to commercialization and create more knowledge-based, high-paying jobs.

But more "consistent, predictable funding" will be required to do that, the report said.

Jeff Gardner, CEO of Windstream Corp. of Little Rock and ARA board chairman, said the Battelle study showed Arkansas was making progress but demonstrated strategic funding was necessary to continue that progress.

ARA director Jerry Adams said a "palpable excitement" surrounds the state's startup ecosystem and cited the inaugural edition of the ARK Challenge startup incubator in northwest Arkansas and the success of the statewide Gone in 60 Seconds elevator pitch competitions.

But in the end, a good motor can't go anywhere without fuel, he said.

"So far, we've had just temporary, tactical funding," Adams said. "We need more permanent, strategic funding."

Adams said it's critical to grow the state's early-stage startups, with three to five employees, to middle-stage ventures with 25 to 50 employees. Before joining ARA, Adams worked for publicly traded data services firm Acxiom Corp. of Little Rock for 34 years. He noted that when he joined the company that now employs thousands, it employed about 25.

The state needs to nurture its future Acxioms, he said.



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