Downtown Startup Space Among Conway Chamber's Priorities


(Editor's Note: A correction has been made to this article. See the end of the article for details.)

The Conway Area Chamber of Commerce said Thursday it will raise public and private money for seven "generation defining" projects, including a startup space that Conway Corp. has said it will pay for.

The space, to be located downtown, will be called the Arnold Innovation Center, named for retiring Conway Corp. CEO Richie Arnold, who has led the utility for two decades.

An exact amount has not been pledged by the company yet, Chamber CEO Brad Lacy told Arkansas Business on Friday, because the center's downtown location has not been finalized. 

The other projects that are part of the Conway 125 fundraising campaign are:

  • The renovation of the historic Grand Theatre at Oak and Chestnut streets into a new arts venue.
  • An expansion of the city's existing trail system and new pedestrian overpasses.
  • Splash pads at parks throughout Conway.
  • Large-scale public art displays at roundabouts.
  • New landscaping at interstate exits.
  • Installation of 180 signs to guide visitors to destinations.

So far, the Arnold Innovation Center is the only project with funding.

"Conway Corp. will both host and power this historic initiative," Conway Corp. Board Chair Johnny Adams said. "The center's mission will be to connect entrepreneurs with critical resources to create, launch and grow businesses, creating jobs and wealth in our community. Much planning and dreaming has gone into this center over several years."

The center will feature programming by the Conductor, a public-private partnership at the University of Central Arkansas. Other partners include Cadron Creek Capital, the city, the chamber and Conway Development Corp.

Jeff Standridge, a co-founder of Cadron Creek Capital, said the center, along with the makerspace planned for UCA's Donaghey Building, would provide on- and off-campus help to entrepreneurs. He said it might also rent space at subsidized rates to startups. The center aims to help create companies in Conway and recruit existing firms to the city.

(Correction: A previous version of the story said Conway Corp. pledged a specific amount for the startup space, but a chamber official said that amount has not yet been determined.)