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The Silicon Valley of the South

Unlike Little Rock’s trolleys, which move slowly, the capital city’s tech community is racing to the top tier at unexpected speeds. (AP file photo by Danny Johnston)

Bryan Howe first published this essay on his Linked-In blog in March 2016. AMP published Kim Dishongh’s profile of Bryan and his twin brother, Ethan, on November 3, 2016.

LITTLE ROCK ~ Arkansas’s traction in the tech community is growing faster than ever thought possible. From building a new state-of-the-art tech park in downtown Little Rock, bringing in new talent to the area such as Inuvo (where my father, Rich, is the CEO) and First Orion, and the creation of local start-ups seemingly everywhere you look, Little Rock is beginning to feel like the Silicon Valley of the South. I wouldn’t blame you if Arkansas were the last state that comes to mind when you think of major hubs of tech talent. A few months ago, however, Arkansas beat better-known tech centers like California and New York by becoming the first state to pass a truly inclusive law that requires all public high schools to offer computer science courses to their students. Arkansas has realized that in order to grow in the ever-changing tech environment, it needs to start educating at a foundational level.

So with all these new advances in tech coming from Arkansas, you might be wondering how you can get more involved. Here are some cool things that are happening in Little Rock that you might want to check out!

Arkansas Innovation Hub

Innovation is on a roll in Arkansas, and the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub is the new center for it all. I attended the grand opening of the Arkansas Innovation Hub facility, which is located in downtown North Little Rock, and I have to say, I was truly amazed by the things they are doing over there for young entrepreneurs. Through programs and partnerships, they are creating a collaborative ecosystem of innovation that will drive economic development ~ along with opportunities for hands-on training and experience at their new Innovation Center in the vibrant Argenta Arts District. If you are a young entrepreneur with an idea, head over to the Hub and check it out. You will be glad that you did.

Little Rock Technology Park

As someone who works downtown and tries to know what’s going on, this one is hard to not hear about. The Little Rock Technology Park has been all the buzz for a while now. The mission of Little Rock Technology Park Authority (LRTPA) is to provide a stimulating environment, including facilities, counseling, programming and financing advice, to accelerate the location of technology-based ventures, and formation of new ventures. Its goal is to provide quality job opportunities and economic development in Central Arkansas.

The Little Rock Technology Park’s charge is to create an innovation center that enables new forms of enterprise, collaboration, knowledge sharing, and commercialization of ideas within and among Arkansas’s various sectors: entrepreneur, private, government, and academic.

Little Rock Tech Fest

The main goal of the Little Rock Tech Fest is to focus on growing technology and software development in Arkansas. Every year, the tech conference attracts the brightest tech minds from across the state to share their knowledge. I had the pleasure of attending last year’s Tech Fest, and I left feeling smarter and proud that we have these kinds of individuals working here in Arkansas.

Bringing it all together:

Encouraging the new generation:

Computer Science as a whole is now having a huge impact on the world at an introductory level, and it will continue to be a part of your life, no matter what profession you choose. As children, we learned about gravity and the digestive system, not because we aspired to become physicists or biologists, but because we needed to learn about how the world worked. For today’s kids, learning how technology works is equally foundational.

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