Gov. Asa Hutchinson has invited a group of key leaders from Arkansas businesses, research universities, philanthropic organizations and state agencies to form the Arkansas Innovation Council (AIC). The group will meet twice a year, with Hutchinson serving as chairman.
The first meeting is Feb. 19 in Little Rock at the Robinson Center. Innovate Arkansas, a program administered by Winrock International, will coordinate the council’s activities. Founding members of the AIC include:
- 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 Corp.
- Jeffery W. Nolan, Jr., President and Chief Executive Officer, Loutre Land and Timber Co.
- 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.
- Chuck Welch, President, Arkansas State University System
- Troy Wells, President and CEO, Baptist Health
- Noel White, President and CEO, Tyson Foods Inc.
“The long-term success of our state will hinge on the development and expansion of Arkansas’s knowledge-based, technology-driven economy,” Hutchinson said in a statement. “We can accelerate our development if we draw on the experience of a diverse group of key leaders. The members of this council are to partner with me to identify resources and skills that will transform the ability of businesses to grow in Arkansas.”
The AIC, according to a news release, will work with Hutchinson to identify gaps and seek new ideas, initiatives, and recommendations to form a strategic plan complete with specific action steps. The plan will guide the efforts of Arkansas business and industry, higher education, nonprofits and state and local governments to create a measurable expansion of Arkansas’s knowledge-based economy.
The AIC will focus on innovation in industry sectors in which Arkansas leads nationally and globally, as well as those that are crucial to the lives of its citizens: 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.
“The task of growing our knowledge-based economy will require a focused and sustained effort from leaders of our principal industries, research universities, philanthropic organizations, state agencies and other stakeholders who want to move Arkansas forward,” said David Sanders, director of Innovate Arkansas at Winrock International.