The city of Newport and the Newport Economic Development Commission (NEDC) announced Tuesday (Oct. 13) the United States Economic Development Administration has awarded a $2.5 million grant to Newport’s Tech Depot IT Apprenticeship Academy. The grant will be matched with $625,000 from the Newport Economic Development Commission to build a 12,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility to house Tech Depot, NEDC Executive Director Jon Chadwell told Talk Business & Politics.
“This is a huge day for economic development in Newport,” said Mayor David Stewart. “The new Tech Depot facility will allow our citizens to access the training and skills to work with any company in the world, and often they will be able to work remotely and continue to live and raise their families here.”
Less than three weeks ago, Gov. Asa Hutchinson cut the ribbon on the Tech Depot. The first apprentices and participating companies are currently being established by the Arkansas Center for Data Sciences (ACDS) and the curriculum is being finalized by ASU-Newport.
“This is another huge step forward for apprenticeship programs in Arkansas,” according to Bill Yoder, Executive Director of ACDS. “We have experience in IT and apprenticeships, and ASUNewport has experience in technical curriculum development and delivery, and now with this facility we have all the tools for world-class IT training in Newport, Arkansas.”
Tech Depot is beginning their operation in the historic Iron Mountain Train Depot in downtown Newport and will move to the new facility upon its completion.
“The partnership between the Newport Economic Development Commission, ASU-Newport, and the Arkansas Center for Data Sciences is allowing us to support our existing industries by helping them grow the Information Technology talent they need right here in Arkansas,” said Jon Chadwell, Executive Director of the NEDC. “In addition, we believe that having this resource to develop IT talent will attract other companies who are having challenges finding qualified employees for these positions.”
The new Tech Depot facility will contain apprenticeship training rooms, an IT co-working space, an IT incubator for entrepreneurs, shared office space for companies who use the facility, and an apprenticeship testing center. Anticipated construction time for the building is eighteen to twenty-four months.
“ASU-Newport is proud to be part of this great new opportunity for Newport and all of northeast Arkansas. We welcome the opportunity to support and develop the technical skills of the incredible people who call Arkansas their home,” Dr. Sandra Massey, Chancellor of ASU-Newport said.
The Arkansas Congressional Delegation worked with the City of Newport and the grant writing team at White River Planning and Development District to secure the grant from the Economic Development Administration.
The inaugural classes in the Tech Depot will have over 40 apprentices participating and will support companies located in Newport, Batesville, and Jonesboro. The partners anticipate classes growing to support over 100 apprentices every six months by the end of the third year. Any company with IT employee needs can either send an incumbent worker for apprenticeship training or work with the Arkansas Center for Data Sciences to locate an apprentice to hire and train at the Tech Depot. Individuals interested in IT careers can put their name into the apprenticeship pool of candidates that will be offered to companies for consideration.
Tech Depot is the centerpiece of Newport’s Downtown Technology Park, known as DTech Park. DTech Park, operating out of the Newport Economic Development Commission offices, will assist technology companies in securing a remote work location, finding office space, securing a partnership with the Tech Depot or in locating incentives to start or expand their technology based business.