The week’s news offers a window into the state’s economic future

Three separate announcements last week all underscored the potential future of Arkansas’ economic development and growth. Tied together, the three initiatives highlight a progressive approach to the future of moving goods and equipment around the world that could bring jobs and investment to Arkansas.

First, on Tuesday morning, electric vehicle maker Envirotech Vehicles Inc. announced it would move its headquarters and manufacturing operations to Osceola and create 800 new jobs in the Mississippi County community. Envirotech said it wants to be close to a major supplier, US Steel, and take advantage of other abundant resources, primarily the Mississippi River. The company’s $80.7 million investment could increase by another $200 million as production of electric vehicles resumes over the next few years.

Let that sink in for a minute – a California company based in the greater Los Angeles area packs its bags and moves to an Arkansas town of less than 10,000 people.

Later Tuesday morning, Governor Asa Hutchinson launched what he said was a full-fledged effort to support future mobility initiatives in the state — he wants to create a business environment and workforce that fosters emerging technologies and encourage efforts to deliver and move goods. and people across the country and the world.

The Arkansas Council on Future Mobility, the governor said, “will lay the foundation for Arkansas’ leadership in the transportation industry for decades to come.”

This includes promoting electric vehicles, drones, driverless vehicles and air mobility vehicles that can take off and land vertically. He announced 17 board appointments, including key executives from global leaders like Walmart, Tyson Foods, Google and JB Hunt Transportation Services Inc., among others.

The governor appointed Cyrus Sigari of Up Partners, a California venture capital firm, to chair the board. Hutchinson said Sigari is considered one of the world’s leading experts in future mobility and is an expert in advanced air mobility.

Sigari is also key to the third announcement of the week which was released Wednesday by the Runway Group of Bentonville, led by Steuart and Tom Walton, grandsons of Walmart founder Sam Walton. Runway has assembled a team of supporters and funders to promote air mobility initiatives that can move goods and equipment through the air.

Now digest for a second the supply chain issues being faced around the world with congested shipping traffic that has slowed the delivery of essential products and equipment to businesses around the world.

Flying in vehicles – smaller and more environmentally friendly than the jets used today by global carriers like UPS, FedEx and Amazon – could avoid supply chain nodes that are blocking deliveries today. today. Airborne vehicles would also be more efficient and effective on short trips.

Arkansas has a long and successful history of building and supporting transportation efforts through the trucking industry. One of the keys to the futuristic approach is to include these carriers in mobility efforts – and this has been done with both the Governor’s Council and the Air Mobility Initiative which has attracted multi-million dollar investment. dollars from the Walton team. Sigari’s venture capital firm, Up Partners, is a member of the Runway initiative.

Runway’s announcement noted that air mobility could generate $3.6 billion in new economic activity and related stimulation in Arkansas over the next 20 years.

Arkansas could be the hub for mobility companies in the future, according to the announcement, calling for a combined effort to “strive to create Jetsons-like paradise” with flying cars and delivery vehicles as well. than drones dropping off packages at our doorsteps.

Sigari, in comments Tuesday as he was announced to head the governor’s mobility council, said Arkansas can nurture the growth and development of mobility companies just as Silicon Valley nurtured technology giants. today’s technology.

“Some of the most transformative internet companies were created in Silicon Valley,” he said Tuesday. “We believe some of the most transformative mobility businesses will be built here in Arkansas.”

SOLAR BANK

The Peoples Bank of Sheridan has installed a 56 kilowatt solar panel that will make it one of the first community banks in Arkansas to be powered entirely by solar energy.

The bank’s solar panel is expected to save more than $243,000 in energy costs over the next 30 years. The system, installed by Delta Solar of Little Rock, is designed to generate enough power to offset power consumption at the bank’s headquarters in Sheridan.

“The Delta Solar team provided us with a custom solar solution that makes environmental and economic sense,” said Craig Manatt, President and CEO of Peoples Bank. “Our solar system is a win-win solution for the bank as we were able to significantly reduce our electricity costs while generating a strong return on investment.”

Delta Solar is owned and operated by Arkansas. “We are thrilled to have worked with Peoples Bank to design and build a system that meets 100% of their energy needs and provides significant cost savings to help better serve their customers and community,” said Bob East. , president of Delta Solar.

RECORD YEAR AT ARVEST EQUIPEMENT

Arvest Equipment Finance had a banner year in 2021, with over $418.6 million in gross production, an increase of over 49% year over year. The Arvest Bank division also saw its total portfolio jump more than 33% year-over-year, from $513.7 million in 2020 to $685 million last year.

“We are proud of the growth we have experienced over the past year and, more importantly, delighted to have been able to help so many customers,” said Eric Bunnell, president of Arkansas Equipment Finance.

The growth allows the division to add a medical equipment program to its portfolio.

Arvest Equipment Finance is based in Fort Smith with offices in Little Rock, Kansas City and Tulsa. It does business in Arvest Bank’s four-state operating area: Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.

DRIVER BOOTCAMP

The conductor of Conway, an entrepreneur support organization, is accepting applications for its 2022 Health Sciences Entrepreneurship Boot Camp, which is scheduled for May 15-22 at the University of Central Arkansas .

Undergraduate, graduate and doctorate. students from across the state can apply and the 2022 cohort will also accept students from outside Arkansas. The camp creates entrepreneurial and interactive learning opportunities for students and guides them in starting and financing a health science business.

The camp pays for all expenses and ends with a demo day for students to pitch their business ideas. Travel reimbursements and scholarships are also available. The bootcamp is a partnership that includes the Arkansas Biomedical Research Infrastructure Network and BioVentures.

Applications are due by March 21. More information is available at arconductor.org/bootcamp.

Ideas for columns or recommendations? Any thoughts or reflections that need to be pursued? contact me at [email protected] or at 501-378-3567.

About Terry Simmons

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