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Governor Forms Arkansas Innovation Council to Develop Strategic Economic Plan

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Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson recently formed the Arkansas Innovation Council, comprised of a group of leaders from around the state in business, state agencies, philanthropy and research university.

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Gov. Asa Hutchinson

The innovation council is designed to expand opportunities for the state’s economy by creating a strategic plan that can help guide the actions of business, industry leaders and government leaders. According to a press release from the Governor’s office, the council will help Hutchinson “identify gaps and seek new ideas, initiatives, and recommendations to form a strategic plan complete with specific action steps.”

Council members will concentrate on a number of major industry sectors that “Arkansas leads nationally and globally, as well as those that are crucial to the lives of its citizens. These sectors include the agricultural industry, retail, transportation health care, and more. The full list includes “retail and retail technology; transportation, distribution, and logistics; agriculture, food processing, forestry, and natural resources; healthcare and biosciences; financial services; data sciences, advanced analytics, and software development; energy and power electronics,” according to the press release.

“Promotion of innovation and entrepreneurship for technology and technology-enabled companies is a vital economic development strategy,” said Mike Preston, executive director of Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC). “It is essential to the generation of cutting-edge research, to help our existing industries grow, and to create high-paying jobs. Arkansas is building an environment of opportunity with incentives and programs to help entrepreneurs and innovators start up and scale new business enterprises, but there is more work to do.”

Gov. Hutchinson will serve as chair of the council. The members of the Arkansas Innovation Council include:

Dr. Donald R. Bobbitt, President, University of Arkansas System
Albert Braunfisch, Chairman, MSpark
Amy Callahan, Cofounder, Collective Bias
Ross DeVol, Walton Fellow, Walton Family Foundation
William T. Dillard, III, Executive Vice President, Dillard’s Inc.
George Dunklin, Jr., Dunklin Farms
Richard Howe, CEO, Inuvo
Doug McMillon, President and Chief Executive Officer, Walmart Inc.
Judy McReynolds, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, ArcBest Corporation
Jeffery W. Nolan, Jr., President and Chief Executive Officer, Loutre Land and Timber Company
Dr. Cam Patterson, Chancellor, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
Mike Preston, Executive Director, Arkansas Economic Development Commission
John Rutledge, President, First Security Bank, Little Rock
Cheryl Schluterman, Interim President, Arkansas Development Finance Authority
Josh Smith, Chief Executive Officer, Metova, Inc.
Warren Stephens, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Stephens, Inc.
Dr. Chuck Welch, President, Arkansas State University System
Troy Wells, President and CEO, Baptist Health
Noel White, President and CEO, Tyson Foods Inc.

Council members are scheduled to meet twice per year, and the first meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday, February 19, at the Robinson Center in Little Rock.

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