Governor, Business Mark Phase One of A-State Innovation System


The Garage, at 219 South Church Street, is a maker and co-working space that's part of the A-State Innovation System.
The Garage, at 219 South Church Street, is a maker and co-working space that's part of the A-State Innovation System. (Graycen Colbert Bigger)
From left to right: A-State Innovate Director Ty Keller, Gov. Asa Hutchinson, A-State Chancellor Kelly Damphousse and Delta Regional Authority Federal Co-Chairman Chris Masingill.
From left to right: A-State Innovate Director Ty Keller, Gov. Asa Hutchinson, A-State Chancellor Kelly Damphousse and Delta Regional Authority Federal Co-Chairman Chris Masingill. (Graycen Colbert Bigger)

Regional business leaders, government officials and Arkansas State University employees gathered in downtown Jonesboro this week to launch the Garage, the first phase of A-State Innovation System.

The Garage, at 219 South Church Street, is a maker and co-working space focused on the design and creation of prototypes, ranging from 3D modeling and printing software to wood- and metal-working equipment. 

It is the first of three phases of the Innovation System, a public-private partnership designed to support entrepreneurship in northeast Arkansas.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson and A-State Chancellor Kelly Damphousse were among state and local officials who attended Monday's grand opening.

The system's two other sites will be The Shop at 5501 Krueger Drive, a machine shop and woodshop that will be located on the ASU-Newport-Jonesboro campus; and The Lab at 504 University Loop, a research facility located on the Jonesboro campus in the Arkansas Biosciences Institute.

The three sites are meant to work as an ecosystem to provide resources such as start-up support, prototype development, grant writing and business counseling. The Garage also offers low-cost access to equipment like 3D printers and laser cutters.

The Innovation System is a $1.4 million project seeded by a $500,000 I-6 Challenge grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration and $400,000 from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and the Delta Regional Authority. The project received an additional $492,000 in monetary, equipment and in-kind donations from private partnerships with Ritter Communications, Nucor-Yamato Steel and Crowell Architects. 

"We have a vested interest in ensuring that young, smart graduates can stay here," said Ritter Communications President Alan Morse, whose telecommunications company provided computer, phone and Internet services to the project. "We want students to know that you don't have to leave. You can start a small business and make this area home."  

Access to the Garage is available through monthly memberships ranging between $25 for students and $105 for small teams. Members will be able to access the system's second phase, The Shop, for an additional fee starting in September, according to A-State Innovate Director Ty Keller.  

The Shop will be housed on ASU Newport's Jonesboro campus and offer guided services and advanced manufacturing equipment for rapid prototyping.  

While access to the business incubator and maker's space became available following Monday's launch, the team plans to promote a membership campaign in the coming weeks. Keller hopes to build a mentorship and private equity network for northeast Arkansas. 

"You may have an idea or a dream to start your business, but that's where it stops because it's just a dream," Keller said. "We're going to provide all the resources it takes to make your dream come true and help you take the next step and the next step until you've started your own company, business or product. It doesn't matter what it is, we're going to help you do it."