Workforce and technology center completed in Newport

by George Jared ([email protected]) 621 views 

The Newport Economic Development Commission announced Monday (Nov. 27) the completion of a $4.27 million workforce and technology complex in downtown Newport. The three-phase development has been under construction since early 2022 and is complete and operational.

The complex provides workforce training, job related education, EV charging stations, free public WiFi access and other features. Federal, state and local officials will attend a grand opening slated for Tuesday morning in Newport. Regional Director of the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration, Jorge Ayala, and Executive Director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, Clint O’Neal, will be among those in attendance.

“We have a wide range of workforce training needs to fully support our growing existing industries and the new industries choosing Newport. Tech Depot will allow us to conduct testing for our industry partners, work with people who are transitioning into the workforce and provide space for corporate training needs. We are so excited to be moving to the next level of workforce development,” NEDC Executive Director Jon Chadwell said.

The first completed phase of the project is a free WiFi accessibility park that is located on Walnut Street adjacent to the Tech Depot Center. The park was completed in August of 2022 and was funded through the Arkansas Economic Development Commission’s (AEDC) Arkansas Community and Economic Development Program (ACEDP), with funds made available from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Community Development Block Grant CARES Act (CDBG-CV).

This program was provided to the state to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the spread of COVID-19. The park features free WiFi provided in partnership with RightFiber by Ritter Communications and an electric vehicle charger provided in partnership with Today’s Power, Inc. Forty parking spaces and four greenspaces with trees and picnic tables allow for free WiFi access between 6 am and 11 pm each day.

Phase two of the project is the construction of the Tech Depot Workforce Training Center located on Hazel Street. The facility was constructed through a grant provided by the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration with matching funds provided by the Newport Economic Development Commission. The $3.2 million construction project is supplemented by donations totaling $494,500 from several businesses.

The 11,500 square foot facility includes two large classroom spaces with computer and training technology labs, a 10-person testing center, a co-workspace for people who need broadband accessibility for collaborative projects, a childcare space, an art gallery and offices. An Outdoor Learning Environment is part of the overall site development which will provide outdoor space with high-speed wireless internet, tables and trees for class or individual learning activities.

Tech Depot, in partnership with ASU-Newport and the Arkansas Center for Data Sciences among other partners, will offer a wide range of customized training for single parents, apprenticeship programs, corporate development, people recovering from substance abuse, people transitioning from incarceration and individuals seeking to improve their personal technology skills. Training computers will be available that operate on the Windows, Apple and Android platforms. The testing center will be made available to area businesses for pre-employment and post-employment testing. Classes will be offered at times convenient to the clients using the facility, including evenings and on weekends.

The third and final phase was the development of a 46-space parking area on Hazel Street across from Tech Depot.

“We are so excited about the Tech Depot project and all of the ways in which the assets developed over the last year and a half will improve the lives of our citizens. Please join us as we celebrate this amazing addition to our community,” Newport Mayor Derrick Ratliffe said.