Gary Newton, executive vice president of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, is leaving his chamber post to head a new nonprofit education-employer alliance called Arkansas Learns.
As CEO of Arkansas Learns, Newton will oversee the fledgling organization that is initially funded by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation. A press release says the organization is projected to be “independent and self-sustaining” and will work to promote “excellent education for all students.”
“Over the years, I have had offers to lead other chambers – Jefferson City, Missouri, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, among others – but the opportunity for professional advancement and personal reward have never trumped my desire to do what I love in a place
I love,” Newton said. “I am honored and humbled to have been asked to launch and lead this new statewide initiative to address what I believe to be the greatest public issue of our time.”
Newton is the son of a public school superintendent and a guidance counselor. He is also a veteran of the Little Rock Chamber having helped create the Leadership Greater Little Rock initiative and the Arkansas Production Alliance, which promotes film projects to the state.
“The Governor has often said, that ‘education and economic development are inseparable.’ By allying with chambers, economic development organizations, and employers across the state, Arkansas Learns intends to put that statement into action,” said Newton. “Economic development is now driven by talent. If we can’t, don’t or won’t educate all of our children, our communities, regions and state will fail.”