The Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub will extend its facilities and services to East Arkansas through the establishment of the East Arkansas Regional Innovation System, which was jump-started this week by a $500,000 U.S. Economic Development Administration i6 Challenge grant that was awarded to the A-State Delta Center for Economic Development.
“The Innovation Hub is pleased to be part of a collaborative effort that secured the first EDA i6 Challenge grant ever awarded in Arkansas,” said Warwick Sabin, executive director of the Innovation Hub. “We look forward to working with our other East Arkansas partners to bring the resources and services that will support entrepreneurship and create more opportunities to develop, retain, and attract talent in that part of our state.”
Arkansas State University, through its Delta Center for Economic Development, is the project lead and recipient of the grant, which will leverage local, state and federal partnerships to produce a total of $1.39 million in support for the EARIS project. “We are thrilled to be the first EDA i6 Challenge recipient in the State of Arkansas,” said Delta Center Executive Director Shawnie Carrier. “The EARIS project is a perfect example of how collaborative partnerships and leveraged dollars can produce enormous regional impact. Heather Clark, Delta Center deputy director, was instrumental in facilitating the project partners from vision to design and writing the grant that would ultimately end in an award for East Arkansas. Heather will oversee project implementation for the Delta Center and we excited to work together alongside our partners and bring this level of innovation to Jonesboro and East Arkansas.”
The goal for EARIS, a collaborative regional partnership, is to meet two identified needs of the region: coordination and streamlining of support services and resources for entrepreneurs and inventors via the Proof of Concept Center Regional Innovation Hub, and fostering opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship in rural east Arkansas communities. This system is expected to produce increased job creation and retention through business start-ups, support for entrepreneurs, and development of commercialized products within one of the poorest and under-served regions in the nation.
Ritter Communications has committed $266,000 worth of equipment and services for the POCC Regional Innovation Hub in downtown Jonesboro, where the maker space and co-working space will be located. Other partners in the project include the A-State Catalyst Center, ASU-Newport Catalyst, East Arkansas Planning & Development District (EAPDD), Arkansas Economic Development Commission Manufacturing Solutions (AEDC-MS), Forge Arkansas, Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce, Accelerate Jonesboro (Angel Investors), A-State Small Business Technology Development Center, and the Delta Regional Authority.
In addition to the POCC Regional Innovation Hub in downtown Jonesboro, commercialization centers will be based on the A-State campus and at the ASU-Newport campus near the Jonesboro industrial park. Satellite innovation sites will be strategically placed in Crittenden, Lawrence, Mississippi and St. Francis Counties at locations determined by need and economic development strategies identified by stakeholders during the long range economic development planning project funded by the federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Sustainable Communities Program.