Written by Arkansas Real Estate
The buzz word "high tech" is something we are hearing more and more in this community as new technology firms move into the area and our international retail presence continues to climb... But what exactly does "high tech" mean to us? Is Northwest Arkansas becoming a new hub for this? How do we compete when compared to the rest of the nation?
The United States Department of Labor defines it this way, "the term “high-tech” is used today to describe industries, occupations and products in which cutting-edge, state-of-the-art technologies are used. The technologies shape the design, development, and introduction of new products and innovative production processes." In an area with the highest percentage of Fortune 100 companies in the entire world, it only seems fair that Northwest Arkansas would fall into the rise of this "high tech" era as well.
Just a few months ago, Northwest Arkansas received national attention from CNN giving clout that "Wal-Mart's backyard is a hotbed for startups". The article specifically focused on the high-tech companies developing here in our community.
CNN reported, "Arkansas is also aggressively courting entrepreneurs. In addition to tax credits and training programs, it's funding several new business incubators. The ARK Challenge, the Genesis Technology Incubator at the University of Arkansas and the Vic Technology Venture Development are providing fledgling firms with much-needed office space, equipment, funding and access to industry experts.
The tech-focused ARK Challenge, which was launched in March 2012, runs a 14-week investment and entrepreneurial boot camp program.
The ARK Challenge will have accepted and hosted 24 startups -- primarily tech companies developing products to benefit the region's retail, food processing and logistics industries -- and will have invested $2 million in private funding to support them, said Jeannette Balleza, the incubator's director."
Other Northwest Arkansas entrepreneurial tech companies like Rock Fish Creative and Collective Bias have both been ranked as two of the fastest growing companies in the country by CNN.
National hubs for technology like Portland, Austin, and San Francisco are paying attention to our area's growth in high-tech advancement as well. In fact, this attention resulted in one of the most new and exciting educational resources in our area, which remains to be a well kept secret to many.
This past fall, Rogers added a third high school option to students. New Tech High School opened its doors to 300 students in August, thanks to a grant given by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that was seeking this type of resource to our area.
It is the first New Technology School in the State of Arkansas that is using a stand alone model. Meaning that it is a fully functional high school on its own. After years of research, the Rogers School Board decided this model for a high school was not only a smart option for students in our area but a necessary option for students with the type of technological innovation in today's world. In order for our area's students to compete nationally, the school board determined it must offer these specific class options from an early age to our area's youth.
This type of learning is project based and research based. Teachers go from traditional educators to facilitators as learning is integrated into hands-on technology based curriculum.
The school will continue growing by adding additional classes over the next two years, and we will likely begin to see the return of this investment for our students in the next decade.
So, what does all this mean for Northwest Arkansas?
It means we are being noticed and we are growing in a very big way.
The development of a brand new council that is being launched out of the Bentonville Chamber of Commerce offers another option for those in Northwest Arkansas to plug into this growth. The NWA Technology Council recently launched to help individuals and area businesses whose focus is in technology fields, gain a competitive edge both locally and globally through education, networking and community involvement. If you are interested in getting involved in this resource, please visit their website here - http://www.nwatechcouncil.org/
Stay tuned for next week's blog to learn more about our area's growth in education. It is an exciting time for Northwest Arkansas!