by Mark Carter
Posted 10/3/2013 10:54 am
Updated 2 months ago
The Arkansas Photonics Industry Alliance estimates that the state's 13 photonics companies employ more than 500 people, deliver more than $27 million in wages and contribute an economic impact of more than $77 million.
The group held its first statewide conference last week at the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce in downtown Little Rock. The meeting's focus was economic development through growing and strengthening the state's 13 photonics companies, according to Walter Burgess of group member and Innovate Arkansas firm Power Technology of Alexander.
Photonics is defined as the technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon.
Burgess said the newly formed alliance will "help publicly identify the 13 manufacturers and their academic peers as a single industry for the first time."
Tom Chilton, director of technology development for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, joined other AEDC and state officials at the conference, and pledged his agency's support of the alliance.
"The photonics industry is a very important, enabling technology in Arkansas with tremendous growth potential," he said in an alliance news release.
The keynote speaker was Paul McManamon, co-chairman of the National Academy of Sciences study "Harnessing Light 2" and former president of SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics.
McManamon said he detected a strong interest in developing the appropriate industry-related workforce education programs in Arkansas, especially at the two-year technician level.
"I doubt most states would have received this level of interest across the various economic development agencies," he said in the release.