UA officials say Fayetteville Tech Park has had $522 million impact

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 151 views 

The head of the Arkansas Research and Technology Park said Thursday that the “town and gown” collaborative effort between the city of Fayetteville and University of Arkansas has been the key ingredient to the success of the region’s research park over the past decade.

University officials held a ceremony Thursday in Fayetteville commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Arkansas Research and Technology Park. At the 10 a.m. ceremony, a new economic impact analysis was unveiled, touting that the technology park has boosted the state’s economy by more than $522 million over the past 10 years.

“It really started as an outgrowth of conversations between the university and the Fayetteville city administration about what more could be done to deepen the ‘town and gown’ relationships for knowledge-based economic development,” Phil Stafford, president of the research park, told Talk Business & Politics.

The Innovation Center at the research park was first dedicated on Oct. 15, 2004. The park ended fiscal year 2014 with 38 public/private affiliate companies and 196 employees, resulting in a total employment impact of 385 jobs statewide.

“From the vantage of 10 years, it’s clear that the Arkansas Research and Technology Park has been an unqualified success, and its anniversary is well worth taking some time to celebrate,” University of Arkansas Chancellor G. David Gearhart told a crowd that gathered in the Innovation Center atrium.

According to the report by The Center for Business and Economic Research in the UA Walton College of Business, labor income associated with the research park’s tenant companies totaled $189.5 million from 2005 to 2014, and the research park’s overall economic impact on the state from 2003 to 2014 totaled $522.9 million.

Based on expenditures by the park’s affiliates for fiscal 2014, which ended June 30, the research park generated $54.7 million in economic activity statewide and $1.8 million in state and local taxes. The park’s partners include the city of Fayetteville, the Northwest Arkansas Council, the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, Innovate Arkansas and the Arkansas Science and Technology Authority, among others.

Stafford said he believes even though the Fayetteville Tech Park is now 10 years old, it is poised for more growth in the midst of an exciting time for venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and startup and technology-based companies in the state of Arkansas.

He also mentioned the fact that he has advised the Little Rock Technology Park Authority Board on its controversial efforts to create a technology park in central Arkansas. In July, the board approved a consultant’s recommendation to locate the technology park’s new headquarters in Little Rock’s so-called “Creative Corridor,” where start-up and entrepreneurial activity in the downtown area is rapidly picking up pace. In early June, the Technology Park board announced the hiring of Brent Birch as its new director.

“First and foremost, you have to have a plan and stick to the plan,” Stafford said of his advice to his Little Rock peers. “This is not a short-term endeavor, but a long-term opportunity to attract economic development to your community.”

Stafford also said that the Fayetteville research and technology park is now almost completely driven by “consistently innovative” companies that exclusively benefit from the research and development assets from the university.

“That has enabled these companies to innovate, invent and test their technology and deploy them for commercialization,” he said.

Over the past 10 years, the Fayetteville technology park has been able to attract technology and knowledge-based companies across the entire startup ecosystem, Stafford said. For example, he said while it may only take one entrepreneur a few days to create a mobile app, it may take another startup company several years to bring a medical or biotech innovation to market.

“Those are two ends of the spectrum, and then there is everything in between,” Stafford said. “The time frame to get (to market) is driven by access to capital. That is the great accelerator.”

Stafford also said he is excited about the research park’s future and is always looking for new ways to innovate and expand opportunities for the companies and partners it serves.

“We are consistently looking to ideas on how we can be a better partner. Plans are underway to add additional research assets that we can leverage to expand our portfolio of companies,” he said. “It has taken a lot of heavy lifting, but we have created more of a mindset of entrepreneurship and our ecosystem has grown and now has a lot more support than we than back 10 years ago.”