Icon (Close Menu)


Newport Completes $4.3M Tech Depot Training Center

3 min read

The Newport Economic Development Commission has finished a nearly $4.3 million workforce and technology complex, completing a three-phase development that’s been under construction since early last year.

The downtown complex, the Tech Depot Workforce & Technology Development Center, replaces temporary space at the historic Iron Mountain rail depot on Front Street. It will train northeast Arkansans to join today’s high-tech workforce and provide job-related education, free public WiFi and even charging stations for electric vehicles.

The complex is the culmination of a vision by leaders at the Arkansas State University-Newport, the Arkansas Center for Data Sciences, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Division, the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and local leaders including Newport Economic Development chief Jon Chadwell.

“A depot is never your final destination; it’s a place you pass through to get to where you’re going,” Chadwell told Arkansas Business at the project’s inception in 2020. “We thought it was appropriate to call it the Tech Depot, because students can start on their way to a new career.”

A grand opening is set for 10 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 28, and Jorge Ayala, regional director of the U.S. Economic Development Administration, will be on hand, along with Clint O’Neal, executive director of the AEDC.

The first component of the projects, a WiFi accessibility park on Walnut Street adjacent to the Tech Depot Center, was finished in August 2022, financed by the AEDC’s Community and Economic Development Program with funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant program. That program was part of the CARES Act, which was a bipartisan response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ritter Communications of Jonesboro provided fiber for the park’s free WiFi system, and Today’s Power Inc. of North Little Rock built the electric vehicle charging station. Forty parking spaces and four greenspaces with trees and picnic tables will be open for public use of the WiFi from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.

A new Tech Depot Workforce Training Center came next, built at 209 Hazel Street next door to the Newport Chamber of Commerce building. A grant from the Economic Development Administration and matching funds from the Newport Economic Development Commission paid for the $3.2 million construction project, supplemented by nearly a half-million dollars in donations.

The 11,500 SF building has two large classroom spaces with computer and training technology labs, a 10-person testing center, a co-workspace for people who need broadband accessibility for collaborative projects, a childcare space, an art gallery and offices.

The site was designed to include outdoor learning, with high-speed internet, tables and shade trees for outdoor classes or individual studying.

Tech Depot will offer customized training for single parents, apprentices, people recovering from substance abuse, people transitioning from incarceration and students working on personal technology skills.

Training computers will operate on the Windows, Apple and Android platforms, and the testing center will be open to area businesses for pre-employment and post-employment testing. Classes will be scheduled at convenient times, including evenings and on weekends

The project’s last phase was a 46-space parking area opposite the Tech Depot on Hazel Street. It was built with a grant from the Delta Regional Authority and matching funds from the Newport EDC. Negotiations are underway for a rapid DC electric vehicle charging station in the new parking area. Planners thanked the city of Newport and the White River Planning and Development District.

“We are so excited about the Tech Depot project and all of the ways in which the assets developed over the last year and a half will improve the lives of our citizens,” Newport Mayor Derrick Ratliffe said in the news release. “Please join us as we celebrate this amazing addition to our community.”

The Newport EDC will direct workforce training initially, Chadwell said.

“We have a wide range of workforce training needs to fully support our growing existing industries and the new industries choosing Newport,” he said. “Tech Depot will allow us to conduct testing for our industry partners, work with people who are transitioning into the workforce and provide space for corporate training needs. We are so excited to be moving to the next level of workforce development.”

Send this to a friend