The Delta Regional Authority, which works to create jobs in the Mississippi Delta in seven states and in Alabama, has awarded the Arkansas Innovation Hub in North Little Rock a grant of $251,105, bringing to $1 million, or half, the amount needed to construct the Hub in the building housing Art Connection at 204 E. Fourth St. in Argenta.
DRA co-chairman Christopher Masingill made the announcement today at a press conference with Warwick Sabin, the executive director of the Hub. Massingill said the Hub ecosystem, which will provide co-working space for start-up technology-based businesses, education, a maker space and more in one place, is “almost like a front door to entrepreneurship for the state and region.”
Of the $250,000 grant, $200,000 will go to construction and $50,000 to program support. With the $1 million in hand, Sabin said, the Hub’s architects are confident enough of the Hub meeting its fund-raising goal to proceed; the Launch Pad maker space and its STEAM computer room should be open by spring, Sabin said. (See architectural plans You’ll have to rotate them.) The Silver Mine, the co-working space, will open later. Joel Gordon, who is heading up the Launch Pad, told the press conference gathering that “if you can dream it, you can build it.” He likened it to an old-fashioned partnership between a small mill and a timber company coming together to build a barn. “We’re building a barn, a really fancy barn.”
Sabin said the Hub has formed partnerships with financial institutions, such as the Small Business Administration, the EAST program in schools, the Arkansas STEM Coalition, and that he would be announcing new partnerships in upcoming weeks.
For entertainment, there was a 3D printer at work, creating a cylindrical gear. Ralph White, a design engineer who worked at Hawker Beechcraft before it closed its facility at the Little Rock airport, was at the press conference. He has been following the Innovation Hub plans closely hoping to take advantage of its resources to speed up his own design work and get it to market, and he said he’s not alone.